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Logo of brjsmedBritish Journal of Sports MedicineVisit this articleSubmit a manuscriptReceive email alertsContact usBMJ
Br J Sports Med. 2004 April; 38(2): 168–172.
PMCID: PMC1724792

Injuries in youth amateur soccer and rugby players—comparison of incidence and characteristics


Objectives: In reviewing the literature on sports injuries, few studies could be found in which exposure related incidences of injury in different types of sport were compared. These studies indicated that ice hockey, handball, basketball, soccer, and rugby are popular team sports with a relatively high risk of injury. The aim of the study was to compare the characteristics and incidence of injuries in male youth amateur soccer and rugby players.

Methods: This prospective cohort study comprised an initial baseline examination to ascertain the characteristics of the players and their level of performance, and a one season observation period during which a physician visited the team weekly and documented all occurring injuries. Twelve soccer and 10 rugby school teams with male amateur players aged 14–18 years were selected for the study. 145 soccer and 123 rugby players could be followed up over one season.

Results: Comparison of the incidence of soccer and rugby injuries indicated that rugby union football was associated with a significantly higher rate of injury than soccer. The differences were pronounced for contact injuries, injuries of the head, neck, shoulder, and upper extremity, as well as for concussion, fractures, dislocations, and strains. Rugby players incurred 1.5 times more overuse and training injuries in relation to exposure time, and 2.7 times more match injuries than soccer players. Three rugby players but no soccer players had to stop their participation in sport because of severe injury.

Conclusion: The incidence of injury in New Zealand school teams playing soccer or rugby union is high, probably in part because of the low ratio of hours spent in training relative to hours spent playing matches. The development and implementation of preventive interventions to reduce the rate and severity of injury is recommended.

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