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Match injury incidence during the Super Rugby tournament is high: a prospective cohort study over five seasons involving 93 641 player-hours
  1. Martin P Schwellnus1,2,3,
  2. Esme Jordaan4,5,
  3. Charl Janse van Rensburg4,
  4. Helen Bayne1,
  5. Wayne Derman3,6,
  6. Clint Readhead7,
  7. Rob Collins8,
  8. Alan Kourie9,
  9. Jason Suter10,
  10. Org Strauss11
  1. 1 Sport Exercise Medicine and Lifestyle Institute (SEMLI) and Section Sports Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
  2. 2 Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
  3. 3 International Olympic Committee (IOC) Research Centre, South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
  4. 4 Biostatistics Unit, Medical Research Council, Parow, South Africa
  5. 5 Statistics and Population Studies Department, University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa
  6. 6 Institute of Sport and Exercise Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa
  7. 7 South African Rugby Union, Cape Town, South Africa
  8. 8 Golden Lions Rugby Union, Johannesburg, South Africa
  9. 9 Sport and Exercise Medicine, Sharks Rugby Union, Durban, South Africa
  10. 10 Sport and Exercise Medicine, Stormers Rugby Union, Cape Town, South Africa
  11. 11 Blue Bulls Rugby Union, Pretoria, South Africa
  1. Correspondence to Professor Martin P Schwellnus, Sport Exercise Medicine and Lifestyle Institute (SEMLI) and Section Sports Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, Pretoria 0028, South Africa; mschwell{at}iafrica.com

Abstract

Objectives To determine the incidence and nature of injuries in the Super Rugby tournament over a 5-year period.

Methods 482 male professional rugby union players from six South African teams participating in the Super Rugby tournament were studied (1020 player-seasons). Medical staff of participating teams (2012–2016 tournaments) recorded all time loss injuries (total injuries and match injuries) and exposure hours (93 641 total playing hours; 8032 match hours). Injury incidence, injured player proportion, severity (time lost), anatomical location, tissue type and activity/phase during which injury occurred are reported.

Results The overall incidence of match injuries (per 1000 player-hours; 95% CI) for each year was as follows: 2012 (83.3; 69.4–99.2); 2013 (115.1; 98.7–133.5); 2014 (95.9; 80.8–113.1), 2015 (112.3; 96.6–129.9) and 2016 (93.2; 79.9–107.9). The injured player proportion for each year was as follows: 2012 (54.6%); 2013 (49.4%); 2014 (52.0%); 2015 (50.0%); and 2016 (39.8%). The thigh, knee, head/face and shoulder/clavicle are the most frequently injured locations, and muscle/tendon and joint/ligament injuries account for the majority of injuries. Most injuries (79%) occur in contact situations, in particular during a tackle (54%).

Conclusion The incidence of match injuries and the injured player proportion in South African teams competing in the Super Rugby tournament is high. Match injury incidence is consistently higher than previously reported for senior male rugby players at elite/professional level. Targeted risk management strategies are therefore needed in the Super Rugby tournament to manage risk of injury.

  • rugby
  • sporting injuries
  • epidemiology

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Footnotes

  • Contributors MPS: responsible for the overall content as guarantor, study concept, study planning, data collection, data interpretation, manuscript (first draft), manuscript editing, facilitating funding. EJ: study planning, data analysis including statistical analysis, data interpretation, manuscript editing. CJR: data interpretation, manuscript drafting and editing. WD: study planning, data collection, data interpretation, manuscript editing. CR: data interpretation, manuscript editing, facilitating funding. RC, AK, JS, OS: data collection, data interpretation, manuscript editing.

  • Funding This study was funded by the IOC Research Center, South Africa (partial funding), and the South African Rugby Football Union Medical Committee (partial funding).

  • Competing interests CR is the chairman of the South African Rugby Football Union Medical Committee. The other authors declare no conflicts of interest.

  • Patient consent Not required.

  • Ethics approval Ethical approval for the study was obtained from both the research ethics committees of the University of Cape Town (REC numbers 008/2011 and 736/2013) and the University of Pretoria (432/2015).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement The principal investigator and some members of the research team will explore further detailed injuries and risk factors using the existing data set.

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