Patterns of training volume and injury risk in elite rugby union: An analysis of 1.5 million hours of training exposure over eleven seasons

Stephen W. West, Sean Williams, Simon P. T. Kemp, Matthew J. Cross, Carly McKay, Colin W. Fuller, Aileen Taylor, John H. M. Brooks & Keith A. Stokes (2020)

Patterns of training volume and injury risk in elite rugby union: An analysis of 1.5 million hours of training exposure over eleven seasons, Journal of Sports Sciences, 38:3, 238-247, DOI:

One of the most fascinating journals I have read in a while, the study on Rugby union examines trends in training volume and its impact on injury incidence, severity and burden over an 11-season period in English professional rugby.

The study recorded from 2007/08 through 2017/18, capturing 1,501,606 h of training exposure and 3,782 training injuries. Players completed, on average, 6h 48 minutes of weekly training (95% CI: 6 h 30 mins to 7 h 6 mins): this value remained stable over the 11 seasons.

Results showed increased severity, injury burden rose from 51 days absence/1000 player-hours in 2007/08 to 106 days’ absence/1000 player-hours in 2017/18. Despite the low incidence of injury in training compared to match-play, training accounted for 34% of all injuries. Future assessments of training intensity may lead to a greater understanding of the rise in injury severity.

The study’s research found a sparsity of information regarding changes to the composition and volume of training over time and the impact of these changes on the incidence, severity and type of training injuries. Their aim was to assess longitudinal changes in volume and type of training, and to explore the effect of these changes on training injury over eleven seasons.

Over the 11 season they demonstrated that match injuries are often the result of unpredictable game events and hence difficult to prevent, training is conducted in a largely controlled environment and it may be considered easier to reduce injuries in this environment

The study suggests that to reduce the overall time loss associated with injury in rugby union, the focus of these efforts may be best placed in training, compared with match-play.

The practical implications of this study are evident for both practice and policy. In practice, this data can be used by clubs to identify differences between themselves and that of elite rugby union clubs in England, in both the volume of training completed as well as the injury patterns they see.

Future studies are needed to establish the exact nature, methodologies, intensity and composition of full contact training, given its high incidence of injury. Developing a greater understanding of the mechanisms driving the increase in injury severity is warranted to reduce the overall burden of injury from training.

This study provides the largest and most comprehensive view of training volume and training injury in professional rugby union.  Results provided season variations which are apparent, the volume of training did not change between 2007/08 and 2017/18.

To ready the full study and make your own conclusions click on the link Patterns of training volume