IRFU medical director Dr Rod McLoughlin has called for immediate consideration of the amateur sport’s tackle area, concussion and ankle injuries as a result of findings from the first Irish Rugby Injury Surveillance (IRIS) research project.
The project, conducted by the IRFU and the University of Limerick, released its initial findings from this first annual study yesterday having looked at injury incidence in both the men’s and women’s All Ireland League (AIL) during the 2017/18 season.
The research, a first into the amateur game in Ireland, records the incidence, type, nature and severity of both match and training injuries across 418 AIL matches and from 15 male teams and four female teams in an effort to identify injury trends that will enhance “the development and implementation of future evidence-based injury prevention strategies in order to minimise injury risk and enhance player welfare”.
The data collated from the injury profiles of 479 male players and 129 female players who registered with the IRIS project produced findings that a male player sustains one injury for every 15 matches played, while a female would have to play 16 matches to sustain one injury.
The tackle produced 54% of match and training injuries with 54% of those tackle-related injuries sustained by the ball carrier and 46% sustained by the tackler.
Male players are likely to sustain a concussion more quickly than females with male match injury occurrence occurring 6.1 times for every 1000 playing hours compared to the female occurrences of 5.1 per 1000 playing hours.
The majority of training injury events, the project has found, also differ between male and female with most female training injuries a result of non-contact and set-piece drills while for men the majority are a result of tackling and contact drills.
Commenting on the findings, Dr McLoughlin said player welfare was of paramount importance to the IRFU and that understanding the nature and type of injury in the sport was vital in the planning and provision of medical care to players.
Although this is just the first year of collated data from the IRIS project it is clear that there are a number of areas that require further investigation to understand how best to support players, coaches and medical practitioners in the amateur game,” he added.
“The tackle area, concussion and ankle injuries are areas for us to consider immediately while tracking their occurrence rates over the next five years of the UL research partnership.
“The IRIS research data will be invaluable in informing how the IRFU address player welfare concerns in the amateur game.
“As the scope of the research widens to include additional AIL clubs as well as schools and youth rugby the IRFU will have a robust evidence-based insight into injuries.”
Ankle injuries scored highly in both the male and female amateur games, 5.7 times per 1,000 player hours for men and 5.1/1000 hours for women.