UL research aims to make rugby safer for amateurs

Incidence, nature, and severity of injuries will be measured.

In a bid to make rugby safer for the country’s 180,000 amateur players, the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) has teamed up with University of Limerick (UL) in a research partnership that will focus on injury monitoring and prevention.

The six-year long collaboration is designed to measure the incidence, nature and severity of injury in the amateur game, as well as monitoring injury trends in an effort to gain insight into the possible causes.

Ultimately, the IRFU hopes the research findings will help it plan measures to prevent injury and prioritise resource allocation towards injury prevention.

This level of long-term research across the domestic game is a first on this island.

As Dr Rod McLoughlin, IRFU head of medical services points out it’s not as straightforward a process as occurs at an elite level.

“It is widely recognised that injury surveillance at this level presents more challenges than at the elite end of the game which has trained personnel to record data and the requisite professional resources to monitor injury occurrences and trends,” Dr McLoughlin said.

As part of the programme, injury data will be collected from Ulster Bank League level right down to mini rugby.

The UL research leads, Dr Tom Comyns and Dr Ian Kenny, have worked with local clubs, provinces and the IRFU in recent years on performance monitoring and conditioning. Dr Comyns said this surveillance project would “help inform game policy using the very best empirical evidence available from the game’s grassroots in schools and clubs”.

A study of schoolboy rugby across Northern Ireland, also designed to monitor injuries and make the game safer, published its first set of findings earlier this year. Carried out in 28 schools involving 825 players average age 16.9, it found the three most common injury sites included the head/face, shoulder and knee.

Researchers at Ulster University, in collaboration with the Rugby Injury Surveillance Ulster Schools (RISUS) group, recorded 426 injuries of which 204 resulted in an absence from the sport for longer than 28 days, primarily due to fractures or sprains. Ligament damage accounted for 31% of injuries followed by 19% for concussion and 15% for muscle damage. In addition, protective head guards or shoulder pads were not found to offer any additional protection from injuries to those areas.

The research pointed to a trend of increased injuries in older, heavier players who undertake weight training.


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