New paper: “On average, a professional rugby union player is more likely than not to sustain a concussion after 25 matches”

This week we had a paper published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, entitled: On average, a professional rugby union player is more likely than not to sustain a concussion after 25 matches. This paper builds upon recent data-driven collaborations between computer scientists, sports scientists and the Welsh Rugby Union, funded by World Rugby.

The abstract of the paper is below; you can read the full paper as open access (as well as a post on The Conversation):

On average, a professional rugby union player is more likely than not to sustain a concussion after 25 matches

James Rafferty, Craig Ranson, Giles Oatley, Mohamed Mostafa, Prabhat Mathema, Tom Crick and Isabel S. Moore

Objectives To investigate concussion injury rates, the likelihood of sustaining concussion relative to the number of rugby union matches and the risk of subsequent injury following concussion.

Methods A four-season (2012/2013–2015/2016) prospective cohort study of injuries in professional level (club and international) rugby union. Incidence (injuries/1000 player-match-hours), severity (days lost per injury) and number of professional matches conferring a large risk of concussion were determined. The risk of injury following concussion was assessed using a survival model.

Results Concussion incidence increased from 7.9 (95% CI 5.1 to 11.7) to 21.5 injuries/1000 player-match-hours (95% CI 16.4 to 27.6) over the four seasons for combined club and international rugby union. Concussion severity was unchanged over time (median: 9 days). Players were at a greater risk of sustaining a concussion than not after an exposure of 25 matches (95% CI 19 to 32). Injury risk (any injury) was 38% greater (HR 1.38; 95% CI 1.21 to 1.56) following concussion than after a non-concussive injury. Injuries to the head and neck (HR 1.34; 95% CI 1.06 to 1.70), upper limb (HR 1.59; 95% CI 1.19 to 2.12), pelvic region (HR 2.07; 95% CI 1.18 to 3.65) and the lower limb (HR 1.60; 95% CI 1.21 to 2.10) were more likely following concussion than after a non-concussive injury.

Conclusion Concussion incidence increased, while severity remained unchanged, during the 4 years of this study. Playing more than 25 matches in the 2015/2016 season meant that sustaining concussion was more likely than not sustaining concussion. The 38% greater injury risk after concussive injury (compared with non-concussive injury) suggests return to play protocols warrant investigation.

DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2017-098417

(also see: Publications)

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