Rugby Most Dangerous Profession

By Greg Meylan
Updated: June 18, 2006

The rugby field is New Zealand’s most dangerous workplace.

NEW ZEALAND—ACC figures show professional sportspeople are in three of the top eight most injury-prone professions, with rugby union and rugby league rating number one, ahead of the forestry and fishing industries, meat processing and mining.

ACC levies for the self-employed, which are worked out on the cost of industry claims, show that being a professional rugby player is the country’s most injury-prone job.

Professional rugby players who were self-employed were levied 37 times higher per dollar earned than the country’s safest occupation of optometrist – $14.66 per $100 earned, compared to 39c.

Former All Black doctor John Mayhew said he had tended to broken shoulders, legs and arms as well as major neck and knee injuries that required extensive surgical reconstructions.

“If the rugby field were a factory, it would be shut down or subject to an inquiry,” he said.

Mayhew said the worst injury he saw in his 15 years with the All Blacks was Michael Jones’ knee injury, against Argentina in 1989, which required total reconstruction and kept him out of the game for a year.

But rugby players were not the only athletes likely to suffer workplace injuries. Horse racing and husbandry was the third most dangerous job, professional cricket fourth and other equine sports eighth.

ACC paid out $2.37 million to injured professional athletes in 2004/05, slightly more than it paid to injured forestry workers, despite the greater forestry workforce.

NZRFU spokesman Steve Tew said it tried to minimise injury among its professional players through resources for training, nutrition and injury recovery.

“This is all qualified by the fact rugby is a unique game and a contact sport – a contact sport of people who are all shapes and sizes.”

ACC’s rugby injury prevention officer, Simon Gianotti, who works with the union to prevent injury at the amateur level, said the number of serious injuries had fallen from 10 or 11 a year five years ago, to one or two.

Gianotti said this was largely because of the rugby smart programme that coaches and referees must attend.


10 most dangerous occupations according to ACC levies: Rugby player (league or union) Horse racing and husbandry Logging and forestry Cricketer Pest control, hunting and trapping Fishing Meat processing Equine sports (not racing) Shearing Sawmilling and chipping Source: ACC