Australia urgently needs a federal government body dedicated to monitoring and preventing sports injuries

John W Orchard, Stephen R Leeder, Gary E Moorhead, Jessica J Coates and Peter D Brukner
Med J Aust 2007; 187 (9): . || doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2007.tb01390.x
Published online: 5 November 2007

Financial motivation can encourage greater sports injury prevention efforts

A landmark study published recently in the BMJ has shown that the rate of catastrophic spinal injury in rugby union in New Zealand has halved.1 For the period 2001–2005, the rate was 1.3 spinal injuries per 100 000 players per year, compared with 2.7 per 100 000 players per year in the period 1996–2000, which was typical of the previous 25 years.1 This drop coincided with the introduction of “RugbySmart” (, a 10-point annual injury prevention program that was made compulsory from 2001 for all coaches and referees in New Zealand.1,2 While the observational study does not claim that the drop in catastrophic spinal injuries can be unequivocally attributed to RugbySmart, an accompanying editorial in the BMJ stated: “The beauty of the RugbySmart programme is that it can do no harm, and according to the results of this study may do great good”.3

  • 1 South Sydney Sports Medicine, Sydney, NSW.
  • 2 Australian Health Policy Institute, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW.
  • 3 Sports Medicine Australia, Canberra, ACT.
  • 4 Gilbert & Tobin, Sydney, NSW.
  • 5 Centre for Health, Exercise and Sports Medicine, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, VIC.


Competing interests:

John Orchard is a board member of the New South Wales Sporting Injuries Committee (NSWSIC), but the views expressed here are his own and not reflective of the NSWSIC.

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  • 2. Gianotti S, Quarrie K, Hopkins W. RugbySmart — the prevention of serious injuries in rugby union. In: Proceedings of the New Zealand Sports Medicine and Science Conference; 2006 Nov 16-18; Wellington, New Zealand. Wellington: Sports Medicine New Zealand; 2006. p. 47.
  • 3. Noakes TD, Draper CE. Preventing spinal cord injuries in rugby union [editorial]. BMJ 2007; 334: 1122-1123.
  • 4. Carmody DJ, Taylor TK, Parker DA, et al. Spinal cord injuries in Australian footballers 1997–2002. Med J Aust 2005; 182: 561-564. <MJA full text>
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  • 6. Orchard JW, Finch CF. Australia needs to follow New Zealand’s lead on sports injuries. Med J Aust 2002; 177: 38-39. <MJA full text>
  • 7. Coates J, Orchard J. Is ‘reasonable’ compensation for quadriplegia in sport affordable? In: Proceedings of the Fifth National Sports Injury Prevention Conference; 2007 Oct 14-16; Adelaide, Australia. Canberra: Sports Medicine Australia; 2007. In press.
  • 8. Quarrie KL, Gianotti SM, Chalmers DJ, Hopkins WG. An evaluation of mouthguard requirements and dental injuries in New Zealand rugby union. Br J Sports Med 2005; 39: 650-651.
  • 9. Gianotti S, Hume PA. A cost-outcome approach to pre and post-implementation of national sports injury prevention programmes. J Sci Med Sport 2007 Mar 10 [Epub ahead of print]. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2006.10.006.
  • 10. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Ten great public health achievements — United States, 1900–1999. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 1999; 48: 241-243.


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