PURPOSE: There is a lack of injury data on women’s rugby, and less on the Olympic format of Rugby-7s. Reporting medical-attention injuries may provide a more complete picture of the true burden of injury and illness in sport. The aim was to determine medical attention (no time-loss) injury incidence in U.S. women’s Rugby-7s.
METHODS: A prospective epidemiology study of U.S. women Rugby-7s (6,768 players; 564 teams), in multi-level USA Rugby and USA Sevens LLC tournaments (2010-2014). Incidence (per 1000 player-hour (ph)) and biomechanism of medical attention injuries were captured via the Rugby Injury Survey & Evaluation (RISE) Report methodology.
RESULTS: Medical attention injury rate was found at 84.4/1000 ph (n=356). Amongst positions, injuries were found at similar rates (backs: 60%, 59.3/1000ph, n=143; forwards: 40%, 53.6/1000ph, n=97; RR=1.11; P=0.447). Most injuries were acute (95%) occurring during the tackle (67%). Most match injuries were from a shoulder tackle (70%) (backs 72%; forwards 62%; RR=1.32; P=0.113). Recurrent injuries occurred at 25%. Lower extremity ligament sprains (53%) were most common, among injury types, muscle/tendon injuries were most common overall at 41% (backs 41/1000ph; forwards 42/1000ph; P=0.998). Knee injuries occurred more frequently in forwards (23%) than backs (16%; P<0.213). Head/neck injury rates, were 22% of all injuries. The sub-acute head contusion rate, where players were physician-cleared to return to sport was 6% (3.5/1000ph).
CONCLUSIONS: Documentation of medical-attention incidents is recommended in the literature, as this is likely to capture a far greater number of ailments, than time loss injuries alone and will therefore, provide a more inclusive picture of the true burden of injury and illness in a population. A panoptic view of rugby-7s injury rates, provides fundamental gender injury data, to guide injury prevention protocols by stakeholders to guide player welfare. Head/neck and upper extremity injury rates (both at 21%) support an emphasis on tackling techniques for injury reduction. A program, including contact-based-awareness, for women newly introduced to this collision-sport, would nurture injury prevention. Furthermore, adherence on return to play protocols would decrease recurrent injury rates seen in this gender-specific cohort.