PURPOSE: Despite recent growth in game popularity worldwide, Women’s Rugby Union is currently lacking rigorous, comprehensive injury surveillance programs (World Rugby). This long-term study aimed to monitor injury trends, that may emerge, which will aid future implementation of evidence-based injury prevention strategies to minimize injury risk and enhance player welfare, for the female and male game.
METHODS: Using a bespoke web-based injury recording system (IRISweb), 15 male and 4 female national league clubs were recruited for a full season of monitoring in Ireland, representing 479 male and 129 female players. Each club nominated an ‘injury recorder’, who was a team physician or physiotherapist trained in use of the IRISweb system. In 10% of clubs the head coach, qualified in first aid, recorded injuries. In all cases the team physician reviewed all injuries for ‘return to play’ ensuring classification validity. Measures included injury incidence, type, timing, severity, and playing position.
RESULTS: The most commonly reported match injuries for men’s clubs were concussion (12%), followed by ankle ligament sprains (11%); for women, it was ankle ligament sprains (11%) and concussion (11%). Concussion injuries resulted in an average of 30 days absence from Rugby match or training activities for men and 23 days for women. Timing of all injuries showed incidence rate (per 1000 player hours) for men of 7.6/10.6/19.1/11.5 for 1st/2nd/3rd/4th match quarter respectively, and 7.1/12.8/12.8/11.5 for women, showing an early 2nd quarter peak for women. The position with the highest proportion of injury was openside flanker forward (no.7) for men and inside centre back (no.12) for women. The majority of injuries for both sexes were moderate or severe (greater than eight days absence). Women presented with a significantly lower rate (13.5 Vs 18.5; p<0.05) of severe injuries.
CONCLUSIONS: The amateur women’s game in Ireland has presented with both similarities and differences in injury occurrence compared to the men’s game. Marked differences surround an earlier match timing of women’s injury, and less severe occurrence of women’s injury. Practitioners should note the most common injuries occurring and the playing positions most frequently injured and develop welfare and prevention strategies around this knowledge.