Updated 02 April 2014

Most dangerous rugby positions

Eighty minutes in the front row is a lot different to eighty minutes out on the wing. We take a look at which players in a rugby team face the highest risk of getting injured.


There are many injuries in rugby union, because it is a collision sport played at speed. And for more than three decades already there has been concern over the safety aspect of rugby.  Some have even gone as far as to say that injury statistics are bringing the sport’s future into question.

Thus it can be seen that injuries in rugby present a serious problem.  It is no surprise then that a number of studies have been conducted on this topic, with it, amongst others, being examined from the perspective of type and frequency of injury, and even the positional risks associated with injury.

What the experts found 

In a literature review for the BokSmart Program of SA Rugby, Murphy (2009) also mentions the high speed and contact nature of rugby, and says that because of this the lower limb is prone to injury. The author further notes that it is this part of the body gets injured the most in the sport. 

Read: All about shoulder injuries sustained in rugby

The review goes on to cite a fairly recent South African based study done on Super 12 players where the hip and pelvis accounted for 19% of all injuries. 

The knee followed as the second most commonly injured area, at 13 %.  According to this cited study, topping the list of injury types are ligament sprains, followed by tears and strains of the muscle. 

Read: The most common injuries: arm and hand

Also, when the positional elements and differences in rugby are considered, it is quite clear that a front row player faces different sets of challenges to a backline player.  Some studies have considered the positional significance of injuries. 

In an earlier study that examined injuries in rugby, Hattingh (2003) makes mention of the findings of another study that says that the eighth man is the position most at risk, followed by the flank, hooker and lock.

The scrumhalf is least at risk of injury, with the remaining positions falling in between. Murphy (2009) in turn refers to an Australian study on elite rugby players, where the backline player suffering the most injury is the fly-half, with the lock being the forward with the highest injury rate.

Mention is also made of a study conducted in Argentina finding that the flanker, at 16%, is injured the most.

And for their part, Nicol et al. (2010), who conducted their study on schoolboy rugby in Scotland, found that the majority of injuries were in the backline, with the wing sustaining most of the injuries at 21.6% and the centre next at 18.9%. 

Read: rugby and the horror of head injuries

They also found that 53.3% of all injuries sustained by the forwards were specifically to the front row forwards, but that all the forwards positions were injured at about the same rate.

From a positional perspective then, Murphy (2009) is right in saying that there are differences found between studies, as the afore-mentioned studies clearly illustrated.

What is clear from the preceding discussion is that injury is a realistic concern, and that one needs to properly train for the rigours of the sport, as some literature quite rightly has suggested.

Read more

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Hattingh, J.H.B.  (2003). A Prevention Programme for Rugby Injuries Based on an Analysis Among Adolescent Players. 

Murphy, K.  (2009).  Literature Review on Preventative Rehabilitation for Rugby injuries to the Lower Limb.

Nicol, A., Pollock, A., Kirkwood, G., Parekh, N., & Robson, J.  (2010). Rugby union injuries in Scottish schools.  Journal of Public Health. 33(2) p. 256-261.

Viljoen, W.,  Saunders, C.J., Hechter, G.D., Aginsky, K.D., & Millson, H.B. (2009).Training volume and injury incidence in a professional rugby union team.  South African Journal of Sports Medicine.  21(3) p. 97-101.


Image: rugby from Shutterstock




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