Patterns of training volume and injury risk in elite rugby union: an analysis of 1.5 million hours of training exposure over eleven seasons

Stephen West, Sean Williams, Simon Kemp, Matthew Cross, Carly McKay, Colin W Fuller, Aileen Taylor, John H M Brooks, Keith Stokes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Rugby union is a popular team sport that demands high levels of physical fitness and skill. The study aim was to examine trends in training volume and its impact on injury incidence, severity and burden over an 11-season period in English professional rugby. Data were recorded from 2007/08 through 2017/18, capturing 1,501,606 h of training exposure and 3,782 training injuries. Players completed, on average, 6 h 48 minutes of weekly training (95% CI: 6 h 30 mins to 7 h 6 mins): this value remained stable over the 11 seasons. The mean incidence of training-related injuries was 2.6/1000 player-hours (95% CI: 2.4 to 2.8) with a mean severity rising from 17 days in 2007/08 to 37 days in 2017/18 (Change/season = 1.773, P <0.01). Rate of change in severity was dependent on training type, with conditioning (non-gym-based) responsible for the greatest increase (2.4 days/injury/season). As a result of increasing severity, injury burden rose from 51 days absence/1000 player-hours in 2007/08 to 106 days’ absence/1000 player-hours in 2017/18. Despite the low incidence of injury in training compared to match-play, training accounted for 34% of all injuries. Future assessments of training intensity may lead to a greater understanding of the rise in injury severity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)238-247
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Sports Sciences
Issue number3
Early online date22 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020


  • Training
  • burden
  • epidemiology
  • injury
  • rugby

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation

Cite this