New Zealand Rugby teams up with ACC to expand player safety focus


Released 16/09/16

The world leading RugbySmart programme is set to receive an additional $7 million investment over the next four years to enhance and expand injury prevention education in our national game.

Players, parents, volunteers and health providers are among those who will be receiving education as part of the biggest expansion of the programme since its introduction 15 years ago.

ACC’s Sports Injury Prevention Manager Isaac Carlson said expanding the successful partnership with New Zealand Rugby (NZR) was all about helping keep players on the pitch and off the injury list.

“Rugby and rugby players are changing. They’re fitter, faster and stronger than they were a decade ago so it’s important our injury prevention programmes keep up with the demands of the modern game.”

Some 150,000 people play rugby each winter weekend. There are approximately 3,000 games played every week over an average of 15 weeks – that’s 45,000 games of rugby every year.

Last year, ACC spent $67 million treating injured rugby players, with much of that coming as a result of contact injuries from tackles, rucks and mauls. This is the largest sports injury cost ahead of cycling and mountain biking injuries.

NZR Chief Executive Steve Tew welcomed the ACC investment.

“The safety of players is of paramount importance. The good news is that our injury programmes delivered through RugbySmart have significantly reduced the number of catastrophic injuries over the last decade. It’s why other countries have emulated what we do in this area, but we know we can do more to reduce other injuries.

“RugbySmart currently targets coaches and referees. However, everyone connected to the game has a responsibility to look after player wellbeing. Through this expansion, we’ll be ensuring players, parents, health providers and others on the side-lines are better equipped to help avoid injuries in the first place and improve the way injuries are managed.”

Two key areas to be covered in the programme are targeted injury prevention education for players, parents and volunteers plus concussion recognition and recovery education for health providers.

“We know that the concussion message is getting through,” said NZR Medical Director Dr Ian Murphy. “With the expanded RugbySmart programme, we’ll be able to do much more to better detect and manage concussion injuries. This includes the expansion of the Blue Card scheme for referees from 2017 whereby they can send players from the field if it’s suspected they have a concussion injury.”

The injury rate in rugby has risen from 35,171 per 100,000 players in 2011 to 40,940 in 2015.

“This reflects not only more injuries, but also greater awareness which is a good thing as more people are seeking medical attention,” Murphy said. “With ACC, we now want to build on that and ensure together we’re doing all we can to keep players safe.”

The expanded RugbySmart programme will cover six specific areas:

  • Coaches and referees – the current RugbySmart programme.
  • Players – providing players with the skills and techniques to keep themselves and their team-mates safe.
  • Healthcare providers – tools and aids to allow health providers to manage concussion and other sport related injuries more effectively.
  • First aid in rugby – the delivery of a first aid programme that equips non-medical people with the skills to better manage injured athletes on the sideline.
  • Rugby-specific warm-up – an exercise programme incorporated into team warm-up drills aimed at reducing preventable injuries.
  • Respect and responsibility – tailored programme with an emphasis on respectful relationships, including consent, sexual assault and violence prevention (sexual and domestic).

Go to the RugbySmart website