Background/aim Participants of rugby union (‘rugby’) have an above-average risk of injury compared with other popular sports. Thus, BokSmart, a nationwide injury prevention programme for rugby, was introduced in South Africa in 2009. Improvements in injury-preventing behaviour of players are critical to the success of an intervention. The aim of this study was to assess whether BokSmart has been associated with improvements in rugby player behaviour.
Methods An anonymous knowledge, attitude and self-reported behaviour questionnaire was completed by junior (under-18) and senior (adult) tournament players who attended merit-based tournaments (2008–2012). The questionnaire was completed by 2279 junior players (99% of total estimated population) from 111 teams and 1642 senior players (96% of population) from 81 teams. A generalised linear model assessed behavioural changes over this time period.
Results Nine (50%) of the behaviours improved significantly (p<0.005) between 2008 and 2012 and the remaining behaviours remained unchanged. Improved behaviours included the targeted, catastrophic injury-preventing behaviours of the intervention: practising of tackling (adjusted overall improvement in odds: 56%) and scrummaging, in forwards only (58%), techniques. Other behaviours that improved significantly were postinjury compression and elevation as well as alcohol avoidance, mouthguard use (training and matches) and cooling down (training and matches). Practising of safe rucking techniques; warming up before training/matches; ice use; heat, massage and alcohol avoidance postinjury; and preseason and off-season conditioning remained unchanged.
Conclusions BokSmart is associated with improvements in targeted injury-preventing behaviours in players. Future research should ascertain whether self-reported behaviours reflect actual behaviour and whether the observed improvements translate into changes in injury rates.
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