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Irish doctors find unusual 'violent trauma' injury in young rugby players

The ‘acetabular fracture’ affects the socket of the hip bone.

Image: Shutterstock/Martin Hladky

THREE IRISH DOCTORS from Tallaght Hospital have discovered a type of unusual fracture suffered by young rugby players.

David I Morrissey, Daniel Good and Michael Leonard wrote about their discovery in the British Medical Journal.

The unusual sporting injury is called an “acetabular fracture”, and affects the socket of the hip bone.

“Acetabular fractures are an uncommon injury, generally occurring in younger patients as a result of high-velocity trauma such as road traffic accidents,” said the doctors.

The three Irish doctors have discovered these injuries in three young rugby players and say “we have not previously encountered these injuries in a juvenile sporting population”.

The doctors have suggested that rule changes may need to be implemented to prevent such injuries occurring in juvenile players.

How they were injured

The injuries were sustained while playing rugby union, two during seasonal match play and one during a training drill.

The doctors had previously reported two acetabular fractures in two other young rugby players, who were aged 16 and 24.

Three of these fractures occurred along with with hip dislocations.

All four injuries occurred during the tackles, and occurred “as a result of pressure exerted through a flexed hip with the knee on the ground”.

This position can be found during a two man tackle, as one tackler hits low and the other hits high.

In one case, a 16-year-old boy who weighed 60kg was hit during a two-person tackle, and felt “immediate pain” and was unable to move. He was found to have suffered an acetabular fracture and returned to playing rugby 18 months after the injury.

In another case, a 13-year-old who weighed 46kg sustained the fracture during rugby training, when he was tackled by another player.

The three boys all said they were concerned about future injury and two of them subsequently stopped playing rugby.

All of the boys involved recovered following surgery and rehabilitation, without any major implications.

Devastating affect

But the BMJ warns that these injuries “can have a potentially devastating impact on growth, sporting participation and lifestyle of young players”.

The doctors advised:

In order to prevent the potentially devastating consequences of these injuries it may be necessary to implement rule changes or size restrictions in the juvenile game.

The doctors explained that in a juvenile game of rugby, even though the players may be of the same age, they can be different in size and stage of development.

This is associated with an increased injury risk.

“An evaluation of the rules at the breakdown and an emphasis on proper tackling could aid injury prevention,” they said.

Last week, over 70 doctors and medical experts sent an open letter to the British government calling for tackling to be banned in school rugby matches, due to the risk of serious injury.

The full report will be available here today.

Read: Jonathan Sexton: ‘You can’t play rugby without tackling, then it’s not rugby’>

Read: Doctors call for a ban on tackling in youth rugby>

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