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NZRU employs brain-power to minimise injuries

NZRU employs brain-power to minimise injuries

With the Rebel Sport Super 12 season underway and a torrid international schedule to follow, the New Zealand Rugby Union is looking to brain-power in an effort to reduce the annual injury toll on its top professionals.

NZRU Manager of Research and Injury Prevention Ken Quarrie recently started a doctorate with Auckland University of Technology’s National Institute of Sport and Recreation Research where he will investigate the physical effects the game has on some of the country’s top players.

“Injuries can have a huge impact on the competitiveness of an international team. Take England for example – there is little doubt that the loss of Jonny Wilkinson’s kicking prowess has impacted on their success,“ he says.

Specifically, Ken will be investigating the position-specific task and movement demands of Super 12 and test match rugby. He will look at the extent to which individual player performance can be predicted from pre-season screening measures (fitness tests, physiotherapy assessments, medical characteristics) and in-season tracking measures (amount of match play/volume of contact, training loads) to find out how players respond to the rigours of playing and training throughout the season.

He will also look at how international rugby has changed over the past 30 years. This will involve an analysis of match patterns such as the number of scrums, tackles, rucks, lineouts, the amount of active time the ball is in play and error rates.

In addition he will investigate the typical types, circumstances and outcomes of injuries in professional rugby.

Ken has been employed by the NZRU since 2000 and is currently working in the high performance area, with a focus on research and injury prevention.

“Professionalism in rugby has brought with it increased interest in understanding factors that contribute to both peak performance and injury prevention.”


He says information on the fitness, injury and match play characteristics of players is routinely collected on New Zealand players who participate in professional rugby. Ken’s doctoral study will apply ideas and methods developed in epidemiology and biostatistics regarding the attribution of causes in complex, real world situations to measures of performance and injury in rugby.

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