The contribution of selected biomechanical , postural and anthropometrical factors on the nature and incidence of injuries in rugby union players
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Background: The incidence of injuries in rugby union has increased on both professional and amateur levels since the introduction of professionalism in 1995. Although rugby union is a body contact sport with an expected high injury rate, limited research has been done regarding the postural and biomechanical characteristics of the players and the effect these variables have on the incidence and nature of rugby union injuries. Large body size is a significant predictor of success in rugby union and the body mass and mesomorphy of players has increased over the last years. It has, however, not been thoroughly investigated whether changes in body composition have any effect on the incidence of rugby union injuries. Intrinsic risk factors that have been identified to contribute to rugby union injuries are Hyper-mobility of joints, lack of dynamic mobility and core stability, previous injuries, aerobic and anaerobic fitness as well as the personalities and characteristics of players which affect their on-field awareness. The findings of studies investigating the relation between player characteristics and rugby union injuries are inconsistent because of the differences in player characteristics under investigation and playing conditions, different research methodologies used as well as differences in the way injury is defined. Therefore, the need exists to determine the differences in the biomechanical, postural and anthropometrical characteristics of injured and uninjured rugby union players by making use of a prospective design and a standardized injury definition. Objectives: The objectives of this study were firstly, to determine the incidence and nature of injuries among U/21 rugby union players at the Rugby Institute (RI) of the North-West University (NWU) (South Africa) and secondly, to determine which of the selected biomechanical, postural and anthropometrical characteristics contributed to musculoskeletal injuries obtained during the first five months of the 2005 season. Method: s A prospective once-off subject availability study was performed that included forty-nine U/21-rugby union players of the RI of the NWU. Biomechanical, postural and anthropometrical assessments were performed on all subjects before the start of the 2005-season. All the injuries sustained during the first five months of the 2005 season were recorded by means of a validated rugby union injury report questionnaire. A stepwise discriminant analysis identified the independent variables that discriminated mostly between the players with and without injuries within the different body regions. Back-classification by means of the "Jack-knife method" determined whether the independent characteristics that were selected to contribute to injuries was valid and the effect size, I ("better than chance"), was then determined, with I > 0.3 accepted as practically significant. Results: A total of 66 injuries with an injury rate of 8.611000 training hours and 61.811000 game hours were reported. Severe injuries accounted for 53% of all injuries to forward players with the ankle being the most injured anatomical region. In the backline severe injuries accounted for 11% with the shoulder being the most injured region. The tackle was the phase of play in which most injuries occurred. The statistical analysis identified uneven hips, pronated feet, tight hamstrings, anatomical leg length differences, gait pronation and a tall stature to be practically significant predictors for lower extremity injuries (I>0.3). No practical significance was obtained for the selected biomechanical, postural and anthropometrical characteristics related to shoulder girdle as well as back or spine injuries. Conclusions: The conclusions that can be drawn from this study are that the injury incidence of rugby union players of the U/21-squad of the RI of the NWU is high in comparison with those of other club level players and that postural and biomechanical imbalances of the lower extremities may increase the risk for injury in this area.
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