There are many examples of how sport has transcended barriers and unified the nation. Perhaps the most famous example is the Springboks winning the 1995 World Cup, followed by Nelson Mandela handing the trophy to François Pienaar and then the euphoria which swept the country for a short period.
The Olympic Games is the largest sport event in the world. In Beijing,10500 athletes competed, selected from a large group of elite athletes in 204 countries. Sports participation on the elite level, aside from winning medals, fame and other rewards, is also important from a health perspective. There is no longer any doubt that regular physical activity reduces the risk of premature mortality in general, and of coronary heart disease, hypertension, colon cancer, obesity, and diabetes mellitus in particular.
Injury to the spinal cord with paralysis during rugby is rare but remains an emotionally charged issue, especially at schoolboy level. The game has evolved over the years with rule changes to reduce injury risk. Scrums were originally perceived as the high-risk phase of play and rule changes in the early 1990s have reduced the number of scrums per game by as much as 40%. Over time the ferocity of play has also increased with bigger, fitter players and possibly more at stake with professionalism. Catastrophic injury rates are low but still occur. Although risk and injury cannot be totally avoided in a contact sport, it does appear that there are deficits in the management of this risk and subsequent injury.
SA Rugby has introduced an educational programme (BokSmart) to increase the level of understanding by players and support staff. This article was prepared for the BokSmart programme in an effort to highlight the deficits and provide a basic understanding of spinal injury.
Terminology, diagnosis and appropriate investigations are dealt with. The early emergency management is discussed as would occur at the first medical point of contact. This allows standardisation of injury assessment so communication between personnel is clear.
An algorithm has been suggested to provide an appropriate management strategy should an injury occur.
Objective. To describe the incidence of injuries in a professional rugby team, and to identify any associations between injury rates and training volume.
Methods. This retrospective, descriptive study included all injuries diagnosed as grade 1 and above in a South African Super 12 rugby team. Injury incidence and injury rates were calculated and compared with training volume and hours of match play.
Results. Thirty-eight male rugby players were injured during the study period. The total number of annual injuries decreased from 50 (2002) to 38 (2004) (x2=0.84, p=0.36). The number of new injuries showed a similar trend (x2=2.81, p=0.09), while the number of recurring injuries increased over the 3-year period. There was a tendency for total in-season injury rates to decrease over the 3 years (x2=2.89, p=0.09). The pre-season injury rate increased significantly over the 3 years (x2=12.7, p< 0.01), coupled with a reduction in training exposure over the pre-season phase.
Conclusions. One has to be cognisant of the balance between performance improvement and injury risk when designing training programmes for elite rugby players. Although the reduction in training volume was associated with a slight reduction in the number of acute injuries and in-season injury rates over the three seasons, the performance of the team changed from 3rd to 7th (2002 and 2004, respectively). Further studies are required to determine the optimal training necessary to improve rugby performance while reducing injury rates.
Chronic diseases pose both a humanitarian and economic problem to a country. While the prevalence of these diseases (coronary heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, etc.) is not well documented in Africa, their meteoric rise is well publicised in the USA. It has been estimated that chronic diseases affect 90 million Americans and cost up to $1 trillion in health care and lost production costs. Physical inactivity - defined as less than 30 minutes of activity per week - is often referred to as a modifiable risk of chronic disease. In fact, 28% of preventable deaths alone in 1993 were attributed to physical inactivity or factors in the diet. But just how and why is physical inactivity such a potent risk factor for disease?