Match and Training Injury Incidence in Rugby League: A Systematic Review, Pooled Analysis, and Update on Published Studies
King, DA; Clark, TN; Hume, PA; Hind, K
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In studies reporting rugby league injuries, match injuries varied depending upon participation level. To review and update pooled data estimates for rugby league injury epidemiology and add information for participation levels in match and training environments. A systematic review and pooled analysis for published studies reporting rugby league match and training injuries. Searches were performed in the PubMed, CINHAL, ScienceDirect, Scopus, SPORTDiscus, SpringerLink, and Wiley Online databases. Studies were considered if they reported on rugby league match or training injuries between Jan 1990 to June 2021. Two authors (DK, TC) extracted the study characteristics, numerical data and assessed the article quality, by adhering to the protocol for systematic review of observational studies (MOOSE) and the STrengthening and Reporting of OBservational studies in Epidemiology (STROBE) statement. The 46 studies included a combined exposure of 419,037 h and 18,783 injuries incorporating 158,003 match-hr and 15,706 match injuries (99.4 [95%CI: 97.9–101.0] per 1000 match-hr) and 264,033 training-hr and 3077 training injuries (11.8 [95%CI: 11.4–12.2] per 1000 training-hr). Of included studies, 47.9% utilised a medical attention/treatment injury definition. There was a five-fold difference in injuries for the semi-professional participation level (431.6 per 1000 match-hr) compared with professional (RR: 4.92; p < 0.001) and elite (RR: 3.77; p < 0.001) participation levels. The hooker recorded the highest pooled injury incidence (93.1 per 1000 match-hr). Compared to the 2014 analysis there was a 10-fold increase for head-neck region (RR: 10.7; p < 0.001) injury incidence, and more injuries for the ball carrier (RR: 1.1; p = 0.008) and tackler (RR: 1.2; p = 0.001). There was a three-fold decrease in injury incidence in the first half (RR: 2.9; p < 0.001) and a two-fold decrease in the second half (RR: 2.3; p < 0.001) of matches. While rugby league match and training injury incidence had decreased since 2014, the increase in head injuries, and greater injury rate at the semi-professional level, mean further injury prevention interventions are needed.