J Sci Med Sport. 2023 Sep 6:S1440-2440(23)00386-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2023.09.001. Online ahead of print.
OBJECTIVES: To quantify the incidence of concussion and compare between playing levels in male rugby league.
DESIGN: Retrospective cohort.
METHODS: Between 2016 and 2022, medically diagnosed concussions in Super League, Championship, and Academy competitions were reported to the Rugby Football League via club medical staff. Anonymised data were analysed using generalised linear mixed-effects models by season, month, and between competitions.
RESULTS: Overall, 1403 concussions were identified from 104,209 player-match hours. Concussion incidence for Super League, Championship, and Academy was 15.5, 10.5, and 14.3 per 1000 player-match hours, respectively. Championship concussion incidence was significantly lower than the Super League (p < 0.001) and Academy (p < 0.001). No significant differences were identified between years for Super League (range: 13.3 to 18.8 per 1000 player-match hours) and Championship (range: 8.4 to 12.1 per 1000 player-match hours). In Academy (range: 9.6 to 20.5 per 1000 player-match hours), concussion incidence was significantly greater in 2021 compared to earlier years (2016, p = 0.01 and 2017, p = 0.03). No significant differences were identified between months for any competition.
CONCLUSIONS: The incidence of concussion is greater in Super League and Academy compared to the Championship. Academy concussion incidence has increased over time. Different factors between and within competitions, such as changes to medical standards and knowledge, could have influenced the identification and diagnosis of concussion.