Schoolboy rugby players have more injuries the older they get

Researchers analysed data from 66 schoolboy teams from 35 secondary schools in England. Boys playing in under 18s had more injuries (and therefore more lost practice and game time) than their peers in under 15s and under 13s. The study, funded by the Rugby Football Union, found that concussion was the most common injury faced by every age group, and contact incidents were the source of most (87%) of all recorded injuries. The team says previous research has also pointed to the same age-related trend, including a large study of rugby-related injury insurance claims in New Zealand. The author team recommends we zero in on preventing concussions and tackles for all age groups.

Journal/conference: BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine

Link to research (DOI): 10.1136/bmjsem-2023-001740

Organisation/s: University of Bath, UK; University of Gloucestershire, UK; Rugby Football Union, UK

Funder: This study was funded by Rugby Football Union.

Media release

From: The BMJ

Older schoolboy rugby players more likely to be injured  than their younger peers

The number of injuries sustained while playing rugby, and match and training days lost as a result, is higher among under 18s than it is among under 13s and under 15s, reveals a study of 66 schoolboy teams from 35 secondary schools in England, published in the open access journal BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine.

The tackle was the most frequent source of injury, and concussions the most common injury type in all age groups and across all 3 seasons: 2017-18, 2018-19, and 2019-20 (September-April).

The under 18s sustained nearly 35 injuries and lost 941 match/training days for every 1000 hours of play. The equivalent figures for the under 13s were 21 injuries and 477 lost days, while those for the under 15s were nearly 25 injuries and 602 lost days.

Contact incidents accounted for most (87%) of the known injuries, with the tackle responsible for around half among the under 13s (52%) and the under 15s (48%), compared with 62% among the under 18s.

Concussion was the most common injury type across all age groups: 5 /1000 hours among the under 13s; 6.5 among the under 15s; and just over 9 among the under 18s.

“It is possible that, as players mature, increases in mass, strength and speed produce greater forces within contact events, which may also be increasing in frequency with age. It is also possible that players are playing to a higher standard as they get older,” explain the researchers.

“The findings indicate that the focus of injury prevention strategies should be on concussion and the tackle,” they conclude.


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