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RugbySmart Recognised As World's Best In Injury Prevention

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

14 August 2008 - RugbySmart, the injury prevention programme introduced by the New Zealand Rugby Union and ACC, has received accolades from a top international medical publication.

In the latest issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the RugbySmart programme, developed jointly by the NZRU and ACC, is praised as being the world's leading sports injury prevention programme, through the application of good coaching and refereeing practice.

RugbySmart was introduced in 2001 and since then there has been an 89% decrease in permanently disabling (paralysis) spinal injuries from scrums. Over the same period, there has also been a 56% decrease in overall spinal injuries. A paper on this was published in the British Medical Journal in 2007.

Other results have included a 43% reduction in rugby-related dental injury claims to ACC since mouthguards were made compulsory in 1997/1998 and a 15% decrease in ACC injury claims relating to neck, back, shoulder and knee injuries.

NZRU General Manager of Community and Provincial Rugby Brent Anderson said RugbySmart was an important component of the NZRU's training modules for coaches and referees at all levels of the game.

"We have had very positive feedback from coaches who have attended RugbySmart presentations in their province. We are delighted that there has been a steady decrease in the number of neck and spinal injuries resulting in paralysis. But as we have often stated, one injury is one too many and together with ACC we will continue to review and improve the programme to further lower the injury number," Anderson said.

In July, NZRU Senior Scientist, Injury Prevention & Performance, Ken Quarrie and the ACC's Simon Gianotti presented at the Second World Congress on Sports Injury Prevention. More than 700 delegates from 60 sports, including representatives from the IOC and FIFA attended.

Quarrie said the presentation was well received and was an opportunity for the NZRU and ACC to share its experiences and knowledge with a wider sports audience.

While a strong focus was previously placed on injuries resulting from scrums, this year the NZRU and ACC have put a greater emphasis on injuries suffered in the act of tackling. On the latest RugbySmart DVD, new Blues coach Pat Lam demonstrates the basic components of correct tackling techniques.

Between 2003 and 2005, the NZRU completed a three-year project examining all tackles in professional rugby in New Zealand. Over 140 000 tackles were examined during this period in terms of its risks for injuries associated with this aspect of the game. In July 2008 the NZRU's paper based on this research was published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine.

Quarrie said the NZRU has also tracked and published information on the physical characteristics of players (example weight and height) to help manage risks associated with the greater physicality of the sport since the game went professional in 1996.

"We recognise that injuries happen from time to time but we will continue to try to eliminate neck and spinal injuries and reduce all injuries through RugbySmart and through the adoption of other safe rugby practices," he said.

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