Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Sports Medicine




School of Medical and Health Sciences




World Rugby


Roberts, S. P., Stokes, K. A., Williams, S., West, S. W., Kemp, S., Cross, M., . . . Tucker, R. (2024). Injury in starting and replacement players from five professional men’s rugby unions. Sports Medicine. Advance online publication.


Objectives: The aim of this study was to compare the incidence, severity, and burden of injury in starting and replacement players from professional men’s teams of five rugby unions. Methods: Match injuries of greater than 24 h time-loss (including data on the severity, match quarter, event, body region) and player minutes of match exposure data were collated for all starting and replacement players in the men’s English Premiership, Welsh Pro14 (both 2016/17–2018/19 seasons), and Australian, New Zealand, and South African Super Rugby (all 2016–2018 seasons) teams. Injury incidences and mean injury burden (incidence × days missed) were calculated, and rate ratios (RRs) (95% confidence intervals [CIs]) were used to compare injury incidence and burden between starting (reference group) and replacement players. Results: Overall injury incidence was not different between starters and replacements for all injuries (RR = 0.98, 95% CI 0.88–1.10), nor for concussions (RR = 0.85; 95% CI 0.66–1.11). Mean injury burden was higher for replacement players (RR = 1.31, 95% CI 1.17–1.46). Replacement injury incidence was lower than the starters in the third (RR = 0.68, 95% CI 0.51–0.92) and fourth (RR = 0.78, 95% CI 0.67–0.92) match quarters. Injury incidence was not different between starters and replacements for any match event or body region, but compared with starters, replacements’ injury burden was higher in lower limbs (RR = 1.24, 95% CI 1.05–1.46) and in the tackled player (RR = 1.30, 95% CI 1.01–1.66). Conclusion: This study demonstrated a lower injury incidence in replacement players compared with starters in the second half of matches, with a higher injury burden for replacement players due to higher mean injury severity.



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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.