Rugby Injuries on the Rise

By Sara Kuzmarov

NEW YORK, May 31 2001 (Reuters Health) - Rugby has always been known as a rough-and-tumble game but study results suggest that more people are sustaining sometimes serious injuries on the field. What's more, some players experience lingering problems-up to four years-after their injury.

More study is needed to determine whether these injuries have long-term health effects, according to Dr. Amanda. J. Lee of the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and colleagues. "With the recent increase in the incidence of dislocation, strain, and sprain injuries in rugby football, the findings...could have a great impact on the game in the future," the researchers report in a recent issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

According to the study of more than 900 current and former male rugby players, injury was the most common reason for quitting the game over a 4-year period. More than one quarter of the 390 former rugby players said that injuries caused them to give up the sport. Sprains, strains and dislocations, especially to the knee, were the most common injuries and 17% of players who suffered a knee injury said it continued to affect their life 4 years later, the report indicates. The investigators plan to follow the group for a longer period of time to determine if the game can lead to a higher risk of degenerative joint disease. "There has been no long-term follow-up of degenerative disease of the knee in rugby players so we do not truly know what the future situation will be," Lee told Reuters Health.

Degenerative joint disease occurs when the cartilage lining the joints is destroyed. Injury and mechanical wear and tear on the joints are thought to contribute to the degeneration of the cartilage. Team sports such as rugby, soccer and football may be harder on the knees tan jogging, Dr. Ian Cohen, a sports medicine physician at the University of Toronto, told Reuters Health. He explained that these sports often require sudden stops, twists and turns that can put stress on the knees and tear cartilage. Over time, these types of injuries might increase a person's risk of developing degenerative joint disease. Lee cautioned that most rugby players do not suffer long-term consequences from their injuries even though the rate of injuries is high in comparison with many other sports.

But Josh Kaplan, an amateur rugby player in New York, said he would not be surprised to find that rugby injuries have lasting effects. "It is a rough sport, people play win," Kaplan said in a telephone interview. "Any time you push your body really hard you are going to feel the effects later in life."

SOURCE: British Journal of Sports Medicine