The England Professional Rugby Injury Surveillance Project Report is always an enlightening one and the 2017/18 season report is no different. The PRISP launched in 2002, making it the longest-running and most comprehensive report of its kind and analysing the risk of Premiership Rugby Players in both competition and training.
A stand-out and somewhat worrying finding is the increase in the severity of match injuries. The time taken to return to play in the 2017-18 season averages at thirty-seven days. This increase is a trend that continues from the 2016-17 season, when the figure was also found to rise above the expected upper limit of season to season variation. This season, the high average can be attributed to an increase of injuries among the three highest groupings of severity. Whilst there were more injuries with a recovery time of eight to twenty-eight days, twenty-eight to eighty-four days and over eighty-four days, we also simultaneously saw a decrease in two to seven day injuries.
The overall incidence of match injury was more in line with what was to be expected. There was an average of ninety-two hours of injury per one thousand hours, with one thousand hours being equivalent to twenty-five matches. When broken down, these figures amount to 1.8 injuries per match and sixty injuries per team per season.
Looking at both the severity and incidence of injury allows us to determine the burden of match injury. As a result of the high severity of the recorded injuries, this season we saw the highest burden of match injury since 2002. With 3401 days absence per thousand hours, this puts the reality considerably above the upper limit of expected variation from season to season.
In terms of types of injury, the most commonly reported match injury has remained the same for the last seven seasons, with concussions contributing to 20% of all injuries. There were 17.9 incidences of concussion per one thousand hours, which does mark a reduction in appearance compared to the 2016/17 season, but only to the tune of one less concussion per eight games. Whilst only ten players retired as a direct result of injury this season, which is a relatively low number in comparison to previous reports, the fact that 40% of those retired due to injuries sustained to the head or neck is certainly a concern.
Ultimately, the figures from this season’s report would suggest that players are more likely to be injured for longer periods of time than they have been in previous seasons, on a scale that exceeded reasonable expectations. It would be fair to draw the conclusion that the increase of injury severity and recovery time could have a detrimental impact on the potential for future earnings, in extreme cases even putting the length of careers at immediate risk.
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