Reducing musculoskeletal injury and concussion risk in schoolboy rugby players with a pre-activity movement control exercise programme: a cluster randomised controlled trial

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Abstract

Background

Injury risk in youth rugby has received much attention, highlighting the importance of establishing evidence-based injury reduction strategies.

Aim

To determine the efficacy of a movement control exercise programme in reducing injuries in youth rugby players and to investigate the effect of programme dose on injury measures.

Methods

In a cluster-randomised controlled trial, 40 independent schools (118 teams, 3188 players aged 14–18 years) were allocated to receive either the intervention or a reference programme, both of which were to be delivered by school coaches. The intervention comprised balance training, whole-body resistance training, plyometric training, and controlled rehearsal of landing and cutting manoeuvres. Time-loss (>24 hours) injuries arising from school rugby matches were recorded by coaches and medical staff.

Results

441 time-loss match injuries (intervention, 233; control, 208) were reported across 15 938 match exposure-hours (intervention, 9083; control, 6855). Intention-to-treat results indicated unclear effects of trial arm on overall match injury incidence (rate ratio (RR)=0.85, 90% confidence limits 0.61 to 1.17), although clear reductions were evident in the intervention arm for concussion incidence (RR=0.71, 0.48 to 1.05). When trial arm comparisons were limited to teams who had completed three or more weekly programme sessions on average, clear reductions in overall match injury incidence (RR=0.28, 0.14 to 0.51) and concussion incidence (RR=0.41, 0.17 to 0.99) were noted in the intervention group.

Conclusion

A preventive movement control exercise programme can reduce match injury outcomes, including concussion, in schoolboy rugby players when compared with a standardised control exercise programme, although to realise the greatest effects players should complete the programme at least three times per week.

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