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UL and IRFU release third year of findings from IRIS research project

Dr Tom Comyns and Dr Ian Kenny, IRIS co-principal investigators at University of Limerick Picture: INPHO/Morgan Treacy
Wed, 04 Nov 2020

University of Limerick and the Irish Rugby Football Union have released the third year of findings from the Irish Rugby Injury Surveillance (IRIS) research project, which looks at injury incidence in the Men’s and Women’s All-Ireland League, and Schools rugby, during the 2019/20 season.

IRIS research records the incidence, type, nature and severity of both match and training injuries occurring across the amateur game in Ireland. By monitoring this information, injury trends may emerge which will aid in the development and implementation of future evidence-based injury prevention strategies in order to minimise injury risk and enhance player welfare.

The data was compiled across 388 matches (versus 644 for 2018/19 – approx. 120 fixtures affected by COVID-19) from 25 All-Ireland League and Women’s All-Ireland League clubs. In the schools game, data from 125 matches at Senior Cup level and 64 Junior Cup level matches were recorded.  The schools season was largely unaffected by COVID-19. A total of 929 male, 196 female and 446 schoolboy players were registered with the IRIS project for the 2019/20 season.

Injury Frequency:

A male player would have to play 15 matches to sustain one injury (no change)

A female player would have to play 21 matches to sustain one injury (down from 27)

A School Senior Cup player would have to play, on average 20 matches to sustain one injury (up from 13)

A School Junior Cup player would have to play, on average 34 matches to sustain one injury (new data)

Senior Club Injury Event:

56% of match and training injuries a result of the tackle (down from 59%)

47% of tackle related injuries sustained by the ball carrier (down from 48%)

53% of tackle related injuries sustained by the tackler (up from 52%)

Male Club Match Injury Occurrence:

7.1/1,000 player hours: concussion (up from 5.3/1,000)

4.5/1,000 player hours: ankle ligament sprain (up from 4.1/1,000)

2.9/1,000 player hours: hamstring strain (down from 3.9/1,000)

Female Club Match Injury Occurrence:

5.6/1,000 player hours: concussion (up from 5.3/1,000)

4.8/1,000 player hours: ankle sprains (ATFL Sprains 3.4/1,000 – 2018/19)

4.0/1,000 player hours: knee sprains (Knee MCL 2.9/1,000 – 2018/19)

School Senior Cup Match Injury Occurrence:

9.6/1,000 player hours: concussion (up from 6.6/1,000)

4.1/1,000 player hours: ankle sprain (down from 11.4/1,000)

3.2/1,000 player hours: ACJ sprain (down from 7.2/1,000 – 2018/19)

School Junior Cup Match Injury Occurrence: (New Data)

6.3/1,000 player hours: concussion

2.7/1,000 player hours: sprains: ankle, knee, wrist, hip-groin, facial/forearm fracture

Dr Rod McLoughlin, the IRFU’s Medical Director, said: “Injury and illness surveillance is at the heart of the Irish Rugby Injury Surveillance (IRIS) project. It is a fundamental component of focused efforts to protect the health of the players. Carefully designed injury surveillance programmes, accurate data capture and careful analysis are building blocks that help us keep players safe and ensure everyone can play the game to their fullest potential.

“While we note an increase in the rate of concussions reported, this may be a result of greater awareness of the “recognise and remove” protocols and the increased robustness of the injury reporting mechanisms.  

“Results from the IRIS project have led to the development of a nationwide programme to improve performance and enjoyment when playing the game. The IRFU Engage programme will be available soon and aims to increase player readiness and robustness.”

Dr Tom Comyns, IRIS co-principal investigator at the University of Limerick, commented: “Comprehensive injury surveillance systems in amateur Rugby Union are needed to enhance player welfare and this innovative project to date has involved the research, design and implementation of an online injury recording platform. 

“Collection has now been completed by PhD researcher Patrick Dolan of the third season’s data and this 2019/20 season report documents our collaborative work with the IRFU and with 25 male and female All-Ireland League Clubs. 

“This year’s match exposure was lower than that of the 2018/19 season due to the COVID19 pandemic with approximately 120 matches missed due to a shortened competitive season. 

“This season presents 388 matches, over 1125 players, and support from dedicated data injury recorders, coaches, doctors, physiotherapists, managers and ancillary staff within clubs.”

Dr Ian Kenny, IRIS co-principal investigator at the University of Limerick, added: “In this second year of injury data collection in the schools game by PhD researcher Therese Leahy, 125 matches from 10 school senior cup teams and 64 matches from 6 junior cup teams are included.  Although the schools season was largely unaffected by COVID-19 this research covers 189 matches and 446 players.”

Read or download the latest All-Ireland League amateur club rugby report here:

Read or download the latest Schools Senior and Junior Cup rugby report here: