Time loss injuries compromise team success in Elite Rugby Union: a 7-year prospective study

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Abstract

Background

A negative association between injuries and team success has been demonstrated in professional football, but the nature of this association in elite Rugby Union teams is currently unclear.

Aim

To assess the association between injury burden measures and team success outcomes within professional Rugby Union teams.

Methods

A seven-season prospective cohort design was used to record all time-loss injuries incurred by English Premiership players. Associations between team success measures (league points tally and Eurorugby Club Ranking (ECR)) and injury measures (injury burden and injury days per team-match) were modelled, both within (changes from season to season) and between (differences averaged over all seasons) teams. Thresholds for the smallest worthwhile change in league points tally and ECR were 3 points and 2.6%, respectively.

Results

Data from a total of 1462 players within 15 Premiership teams were included in the analysis. We found clear negative associations between injury measures and team success (70-100% likelihood), with the exception of between-team differences for injury days per team-match and ECR, which was unclear. A reduction in injury burden of 42 days (90% CI 30 to 70) per 1000 player hours (22% of mean injury burden) was associated with the smallest worthwhile change in league points tally.

Conclusions

Clear negative associations were found between injury measures and team success, and moderate reductions in injury burden may have worthwhile effects on competition outcomes for professional Rugby Union teams. These findings may be useful when communicating the value of injury prevention initiatives within this elite sport setting.

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