Aim: To describe trends in the incidence of match concussions and time to return-to-play in professional rugby union.
Methods: Match concussion incidence (injuries per 1000 player-match-hours) and time to return-to-play (mean and median days absence) were recorded in 3006 male professional rugby union players over 16 seasons (2002/03–2018/19).
Results: From 2002/03 to 2009/10, incidence of concussions was stable at 4.3/1000 player-match-hours. From 2009/10 to 2018/19, there was an increase in concussion incidence, with the highest incidence in 2016/17 at 20.9/1000 player-match-hours (95% CI: 17.9–24.3). Annual prevalence of concussion also increased, suggesting more players were concussed rather than the same players sustaining more concussions. Before the introduction of standardized graduated return-to-play (GRTP) guidelines in 2011, 27% of players returned to play in <6 days. After the introduction of the GRTP, this decreased to 7%, with no players returning in <6 days after 2014/15. Between 2002/03 and 2018/19, incidence of all other injuries remained stable.
Conclusions: From 2009/10 onwards, the incidence of diagnosed concussions increased. Since the introduction of the GRTP, there has been a dramatic reduction in the number of players returning in <6 days.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
- Developmental and Educational Psychology
- Clinical Neurology