Epidemiology of rugby injuries sustained by Free State University hostel-league players during the 2003 rugby season

  • G Joubert Department of Biostatistics University of the Free State
  • N Theron Clini-Sport Sports Medicine Rehabilitation & Wellness Centre Bloemfontein
  • J Mahaffey Medical student School of Medicine University of the Free State
  • J Owen Medical student School of Medicine University of the Free State
  • O Van Schalkwyk Medical student School of Medicine University of the Free State
  • L Owen Medical student School of Medicine University of the Free State


Rugby results in more hospitalisations and visits to the emergency rooms of hospitals than any other sport. It is also the sport with the highest injury rate. The aim of this study was to determine the incidence and profile of the rugby injuries that were sustained by hostel-league rugby players at the University of the Free State.

This analytical prospective cohort study included all the rugby players playing in the Free State University Rugby Hostel League in the 2003 rugby season. Throughout the rugby season, the rugby coaches docu-mented the dates of each practice session, the duration of each practice and the players present at each practice and each match. The captains reported the injuries in their teams. Each player also personally completed a separate injury form for each injury. All the players who had been injured gave informed, written consent for their data to be used. The protocol was approved by the Ethics Committee, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Free State. The main outcome measures were the incidence of injury, injury risk per 100 hours played and the profile of the injuries.

The results of only four of the six hostels are reported due to a lack of cooperation from the other two hostels. Fifty-eight (26.4%) of the 220 players were injured during the season, with 61 injuries being recorded, three of the players being injured twice. The incidence of the injuries ranged from 21.4% to 32% per hostel. Forty per cent of the injured players had also been injured during the previous season. Only three hostels had sufficient information for their risk per time exposure to be calculated. The risk was 0.4, 6.2 and 6.3 per 1 000 hours of exposure. The overall risk of injury per 1 000 hours of rugby played was 5.3. The majority of injuries occurred in the first league and in the lower limbs, with the most common type of injury involving ligaments. Most injuries were caused by tackling. The occurrence of injuries took place evenly throughout both halves of the matches. One date and one time interval during the rugby season stood out due to the high incidence of injuries sustained: on 9 May 2003, 10 injuries were sustained, eight in a game between the first teams of two hostels (seven from Hostel A and one from Hostel B). From 18 July 2003 to 1 August 2003 (the first three weeks after the June/July holidays), 25 injuries occurred.

Our findings were similar to those of other studies in certain respects but differed in others. Further research should investigate the effect of coaching techniques, fitness levels, protective gear and first aid provided on the injuries sustained.

For full text, click here: SA Fam Pract 2006; 48(8):17-17d

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2078-6204
print ISSN: 2078-6190