On average, a professional rugby union player is more likely than not to sustain a concussion after 25 matches
Published on Mar 12, 2018in British Journal of Sports Medicine 11.64
· DOI :10.1136/bjsports-2017-098417
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.