The incidence and burden of injury in male adolescent community rugby union in Australia

Sean Murray-Smith, Sean Williams, Matthew Whalan, Gregory E. Peoples, John A. Sampson

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Objectives: To describe the incidence, location, mechanism and burden of injury in community male adolescent rugby. Methods: A prospective cohort injury surveillance study using sports trainers to record ‘any physical complaint’ over three seasons (2018/2019/2021) in 979 U13-U17 community male rugby union players. Results: One hundred and fifty-two time-loss injuries (27.6/1000 hours) with an associated burden of 2313 days (419.7 days/1000 hours), 169 non-time loss medical attention (30.1/1000 hours) and 813 physical complaints (147.5/1000 hours) were recorded from 5511.7 exposure hours (matches 3932.5 hours, training 1579.2 hours). Time-loss injury incidence was highest in U16 (45/1000 hours) and lowest in U17 (16.6/1000 hours), with U17 significantly lower than U16 and U15 age-grades (p < 0.05). Injury burden was greatest in U13 (561.4 days/1000 hours), and significantly higher than U15 and U17 (p < 0.05). Collectively, injury incidence was greatest for the head/neck (11.8/1000 hours), bruise/contusions were most common (8.7/1000 hours) and concussion (4.5/1000 hours) accounted for the greatest injury burden (102 days/1000 hours). Being tackled was the most observed injury mechanism (10.0/1000 hours). Forwards had significantly higher incidence in mild injury (p < 0.01). The total burden (p < 0.001) associated with mild (p < 0.001) and moderate injuries (p < 0.001) was significantly higher in forwards, as was the burden of being tackled (p < 0.001), collisions (p < 0.001), trunk (p < 0.001) and lower limb (p < 0.01) injury locations. In contrast, ruck-related injury burden was greater in backs (p < 0.001). Conclusion: This study showed age-grade and positional differences in incidence and burden of injury in community adolescent rugby union. The rate of non-time loss relative to time-loss injury and muscle strain injury in U13-U14s suggests further research into injury risk and maturation in rugby is needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315-322
JournalScience and Medicine in Football
Issue number4
Early online date22 Sept 2022
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2023


  • Sporting injuries
  • brain concussion
  • child health
  • prospective studies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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