Rugby Science Update 7
Longitudinal study of six seasons of match injuries in elite female rugby union
The aim of this longitudinal study was to describe the incidence, severity and burden of match injuries in elite adult women’s rugby union. Secondary aims were to describe injuries in different positional groupings (forwards and backs) and to describe the type and location of, and game event responsible for, injuries. The study found the incidence of injury was similar to those previously reported for women’s international match play, while lower than the elite men’s competition. Both the mean and median severity of injury were higher than those reported in elite men’s rugby. Concussion was the most common injury diagnosis, with the incidence of concussion increasing over the study period. The tackle event was associated with the greatest burden of injury, with ‘being tackled’ specifically causing the most injuries and concussions.
The study is published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
Starling, L. T., Gabb, N., Williams, S., Kemp, S., & Stokes, K. A. (2022). Longitudinal study of six seasons of match injuries in elite female rugby union. British Journal of Sports Medicine. Online first.
The relationship between physical characteristics and match collision performance among elite international female rugby union players
The aim of this study was to investigate which combination of anthropometric and physical abilities explained variance in match collision performance, using both effort and performance variables, in international female rugby union matches. The study collected physical performance and anthropometric data from fifty-one international female rugby union players, and analysed collision actions (categorised as “effort” or “performance” variables) from 20 international matches. Among forwards, acceleration momentum, body mass and skinfolds were positively associated with winning collisions and carrying the ball into contact more frequently, whilst tackle frequency was positively associated with relative leg strength and power output. For the backs, the ability to win collisions was positively associated with relative leg power output, and negatively associated with body mass. Tackle frequency was also associated with maximum upper- and lower-body strength.
This study is published in the European Journal of Sport Science. Woodhouse, L. N., Bennett, M., Tallent, J., Patterson, S. D., & Waldron, M. (2022). The relationship between physical characteristics and match collision performance among elite international female rugby union players. European Journal of Sport Science, 1-10.
Lay of the land: narrative synthesis of tackle research in rugby union and rugby sevens
The purpose of this review was to synthesise both injury prevention and performance tackle-related research to provide rugby stakeholders with information on tackle injury epidemiology, including tackle injury risk factors and performance determinants, and to discuss measures that may improve tackle performance while reducing the risk of tackle injuries. Using a systematic review approach, a total of 177 rugby union studies and 13 rugby sevens studies were identified. The review found that the tackle consistently accounted for more than 50% of all injuries in rugby union and rugby sevens, both at the professional level and at the lower levels, with the rate of tackle injuries higher at the professional level (mean 32/1000 player-hours) compared with the lower levels (mean 17/1000 player- hours). Also, the frequencies of injury between the ball carrier and tackler were not largely dissimilar. A player’s tackle actions and technical ability was also highlighted as a major risk factor for injury and a key determinant of performance. While studies have used evidence-based education, or proposed progressive tackle technique training and law changes to modify player tackle actions and technical ability, it was noted that all three modifiers working in unison (as oppose to separately) will have a higher potential at reducing tackle injury risk while enhancing performance. With the guidance of tackle injury and performance studies, as well as stakeholder engagement, experiential and explorative tackle research also has potential to inspire innovative tackle injury prevention and performance strategies.
This is review is published in the BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine and is open access.
Burger, N., Lambert, M., & Hendricks, S. (2020). Lay of the land: narrative synthesis of tackle research in rugby union and rugby sevens. BMJ open sport & exercise medicine, 6(1), e000645.