Rugby world cup 2019 - injuries and prevention

16 September 2019

It is countdown time for the Rugby World Cup! As with all full-contact team sports, rugby has unfortunately a high incidence of injury. Like all international sports governing bodies World Rugby has processes in place to minimise injuries in the sport. As part of this a significant amount of data is gathered on the types, severity and time off sports and this information is gathered every four years during the Rugby World Cup by the team doctors, physiotherapists and coaches. During the last world cup in 2015 there were 639 players from 20 countries that were monitored closely. In total there were 173 match injuries during the world cup (3.6 injuries per match)!

Although one would assume all injuries sustained are due to contact – only 76% were due to contact injuries with another player and the remainder were due to non contact injuries. Just under 25% of the injuries were due to a direct tackle. 

The most common sites of injuries were to the head/face (concussion), knee ligaments, hamstring/calf muscle strain and ankle ligament injuries. The injuries that caused the greatest number of absent days from the game were due to knee ligament injuries with over 1500 absent days, followed by hamstring strains with 669 days – with some of these injuries being career ending.

Many of the rugby injuries settle with subjective protection, rest, ice, compression, elevation (PRICE) and physiotherapy. Unfortunately, some will require surgical intervention with repair or reconstruction of ligaments, repair of tendons or fixation of fractures by an orthopaedic surgeon.

The most effective treatment however for any of the injuries is prevention and pre-season conditioning. Injury prevention is at the heart of law amendment and recommendations made by the World Rugby’s Law Review Group. Other ways are to teach best practice tackling techniques to upcoming players, landing techniques and hamstring eccentric exercises to avoid injuries such as anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries. These changes have already shown a 14% reduction in concussion type injuries in rugby and in other sports, such as football, significant proven reduction in ACL injuries has already occurred. This year’s Rugby World Cup monitoring of injuries will hopefully further help identify areas of potential improvement. Well done to the Rugby Union for achieving the improvements to date.

This article has been written for you by Mr Yega Kalairajah, Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon here at Spire Harpenden Hospital. If you’re a keen rugby player, or know someone who is struggling with injury, take control of your health and book to see a specialist today. Call our friendly self-pay team today on 01582 788 412 and they’ll be more than happy to help.

“Mr Kalairajah was very professional and explained everything to me pre-surgery and on the day of surgery. He also did a catch up with me just to go over the procedures. Post surgery he came to my room which was very nice, to tell me things went okay - that was reassuring.”
- Patient feedback for Mr Kalairajah

Mr Kalairajah is also running a free patient information evening regarding lower limb sports injuries on Thursday 10 October. To register your place please call our self-pay team (01582 714 420) and ask for Dan.



  1. Fuller CW, Taylor A, Kemp SPT, et al; Rugby World Cup 2015: World Rugby injury surveillance study; British Journal of Sports Medicine 2017;51:51-57.
  3. Monajati A1, Larumbe-Zabala E2, Goss-Sampson M1, Naclerio F1; The Effectiveness of Injury Prevention Programs to Modify Risk Factors for Non-Contact Anterior Cruciate Ligament and Hamstring Injuries in Uninjured Team Sports Athletes: A Systematic Review. PLoS One. 2016 May 12;11(5):e0155272. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0155272. eCollection 2016.

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