Player welfare: RPA calls for players to be limited to 30 games per season

Manu Tuilagi helped off Credit: Alamy
Manu Tuilagi helped off Credit: Alamy

The Rugby Players Association (RPA) is eager to bring in a limit of 30 games per season to reduce injury risk, following the results of a recent study.

The RPA-funded research indicates that players making “31 match involvements” in a season face a “significantly higher injury burden” in the following year.

Entitled “The Influence of Match Exposure on Injury Risk in Elite Men’s Rugby Union”, the study has been conducted by the University of Bath in England.

Builds upon previous study from 2017

It defines involvement as “any time spent on the field” and builds on a study from 2017, utilising data from the Rugby Football Union and Premiership Rugby.

“The RPA position is that season match limits should be reduced to a maximum of 30 match involvements of any kind for a player, in order to reduce injury risk,” said RPA welfare director Richard Bryan on Wednesday.

“Going forward it is essential that this research, and other research on match/training exposure and injury risk, continues to be refreshed along with the assessments and conclusions reached for both the men’s and women’s game.”

There is also a further ongoing mouthguard study being carried out which could lead to the RPA recommending even greater reductions to that 30-match cap.

The new research has been welcomed in the wider game, with Mark Harrington, World Rugby’s chief player welfare and rugby services officer, responding.

World Rugby welcomes the research

“World Rugby welcomes all research that has the ability to inform evidence-based moves to reduce the risk of injury in rugby through prevention, management and education,” Harrington said.

Conrad Smith, head of player welfare and high performance for global representative body International Rugby Players, added: “Injury prevention is one of the most pressing issues in our game and this is extremely important research from the RPA.”

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