There have been quite a few studies examining injury patterns in senior rugby union players. However, similar investigations into youth rugby union are rare. A research team based at the University of Bath in the UK has sought to provide greater clarity, examining injury incidence among academy and school rugby players. Their study showed that injuries were in general less common than among senior rugby players but injury patterns and causes did not differ much. The researchers also established that injuries sustained during matches were far more numerous in academy youth rugby than in school rugby. The findings of the study have been published in the April issue of The American Journal of Sports Medicine.
The investigation covered the 2006/2007 and 2007/2008 seasons, focusing on players aged between 16 and 18. The subjects were 250 players from 12 English Premiership academies and 222 from seven school teams. The study involved an analysis of information on injuries suffered during matches and their classification by type, cause and location.
The research team found injury incidence to be 47 per 1,000 player-hours in the case of academy rugby teams, while the corresponding number was 35 for the school rugby group. The lower limb emerged as the most common site for injury, with ligament sprains topping the list in the type category. The greatest burden of injury in both groups was those occurring in the knee and shoulder regions. As for cause, the tackle event was found to be the most common one. In the academy group it accounted for 51% of match injuries, while the respective figure for schools was 57%.