Contrary to popular belief, new research suggests that high school rugby is no more dangerous than other contact sports.
"All sports, especially contact sports, expose athletes to the risk of injury," said Christy Collins of the Centre for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
Similar to other sports
But with 5.2 injuries per 1 000 total rugby athletic exposures, Collins and colleagues note that high school rugby players have similar injury rates to high school American football players and wrestlers, and lower rates than ice hockey players.
Moreover, "we found that the overall injury rate for US high school rugby players was similar to rugby injury rates reported in other countries where rugby is one of the most popular sports," Collins told Reuters Health.
She and colleagues analysed "injury exposures" reported by 121 boys' and girls' high school rugby clubs during the 2005 and 2006 seasons. They identified 594 injuries over 113 641 exposures, with one exposure being one player participating in one practice or match.
Injured players ranged in age from 13 to 19 years and 87 percent were male, the researchers report in the medical journal, Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine.
Head injuries most common
Most injuries, nearly 22 percent, involved the head. Ankle, shoulder, and knee injuries made up another 13, 13, and 11 percent, respectfully. Overall, half the injuries occurred during contact with another player and a quarter resulted from hitting the ground.
The largest proportion of these injuries - most commonly fractures, concussions, and ligament sprains - occurred while players were being tackled (31 percent) or were tackling (29 percent), the researchers report. Another 14 percent occurred during rucks, when both teams close in around the ball on the ground in an attempt to gain possession.
Adequate physical preparation, teaching proper technique, insuring players wear appropriate protective equipment, and continued monitoring should help make rugby as safe as possible, the researchers note.
SOURCE: Archives of Paediatric and Adolescent Medicine, January 2008. – (Reuters Health)
Visual guides to rugby injuries