Half of all Super Rugby players can expect to get injured in a season, according to a new study.
The study, recently published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, and led by Prof Martin Schwellnus, director of the University of Pretoria’s (UP) Sport, Exercise Medicine and Lifestyle Institute (Semli), followed 482 players over five Super Rugby seasons during training and match time, recording the injuries that occurred during a total of 93,641 player-hours.
The study, the largest conducted to date in this tournament, revealed that there is a considerably higher match injury incidence in South African Super Rugby teams, where each team can expect to have two injuries occur per match. About 50% of all players can expect to suffer a time-loss injury each season, which prevents the player from playing in matches or training for more than one day. Almost a third of players can expect to have an injury resulting in eight or more days off from training/match play, and one in eight players will sustain a severe injury that puts them out for more than 28 days.
World Rugby periodically introduces changes to the laws of the game to enhance the playing and spectator experience and improve player welfare. Such law changes likely alter team strategy and player demands and may affect injury patterns over time. There is, therefore, a need to conduct research studies over a number of seasons in order to analyse changes in injury profiles.
The results from the five-year study led by Semli researchers revealed a total of 936 time-loss injuries, of which, understandably, the vast majority (85.7%) occurred during matches and 14.3% occurred during training – a 62 times higher chance of getting injured in matches than during training. Most of these match injuries occurred in contact situations, with more than half of all injuries occurring during a tackle specifically.
Over the five years of the study, 8% of players suffered a minimal injury, 12% suffered mild injury, 17% suffered a moderate injury and 12% suffered a severe injury resulting in at least 28 days of time loss. 50% of all the match injuries occurred in players’ legs (mostly in the thigh and knee), followed by the arms/shoulders (mostly the shoulder/clavicle). Less common were head/neck injuries (16%) and injuries to the trunk (11%).
The possible causes of injury are varied and complex, and could include conditioning levels, injury prevention and management procedures, or the travel demands during a tournament. Nevertheless, the alarming statistics such as these call for the development of evidence-based, targeted interventions and guidelines for injury-risk reduction (such as rule changes or the modification of players’ technique), since the effect of injury on player performance, health and career advancement, not to mention overall team performance can be devastating.
Prof Schwellnus and his research team at Semli, in collaboration with SA Rugby and the medical doctors of the South African Super Rugby teams have already started designing, implementing and testing these vitally important injury prevention programmes.
– Article provided by the University of Pretoria
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