Injury rate in 15-a-side game increases quickly as players age

A comprehensive study of injuries in the 15-a-side game has shown most injuries are damage to soft tissue while concussions may be underreported because of a fear of missing games.

New Zealand Rugby released research yesterday which outlined the claims made with ACC for injuries for 2005-17.

In that time, 635,657 claims were made for injuries for players aged 5-40. It did not say how much the claims cost.

The study was hailed as a first as most other studies into injuries were done at an elite sport level.

Of all the injuries recorded, 76% of them were soft-tissue injuries such as sprains and bruises.

Of the other injuries, 11% were for fractures and dislocations, 7% were for cuts and lacerations, 3% were for concussions and 2% for dental injuries.

The most injured areas were shoulder (14%), knee (13%), wrist/hand (13%), neck/spine (13%), head/face (12%), leg (11%) and ankle (10%).

When a player starts out, there is a slight chance of getting injured. But the injury rate increases quickly as players grow older.

Male players aged 18-20 had a 53% chance of making a claim annually while those aged 21-30 had a 57% chance of making a claim annually.

Almost one-third of adult players can expect to make at least one claim for a soft -tissue injury every year.

Female players make up 10% of the playing population and 6% of claims.

But as female players get older they tend to make more claims and the rate does not decrease. The study said as as female players aged they were forced to play in just one grade.

That grade had a real mixture of abilities and many players found themselves up against bigger and faster players which led to injuries.

Injury rates were the lowest in the youngest age-group but increased rapidly for both men and women.

The limitation of the study was there was no clear explanation of how injuries occurred.

Just 3% of the injuries were classified as concussion.

The study came to the conclusion this was just a small indication of the concussions suffered in games.

That came down to a lack of recognition by players that the concussion had occurred and many of the players not feeling the concussion was severe enough to warrant seeking medical advice.

In the community game, there is an automatic stand-down of three weeks should a player pick up a concussion. That may lead to a perception that reporting a concussion is a disincentive as it rules players out of playing.

Further investigation may be needed on the concussion issue although rules have tightened around that issue in the past couple of years.

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