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Prevalent morphometric vertebral fractures in professional male rugby players.

Hind, K. and Birrell, F. and Beck, B. (2014) 'Prevalent morphometric vertebral fractures in professional male rugby players.', PLoS ONE., 9 (5). e97427.


There is an ongoing concern about the risk of injury to the spine in professional rugby players. The objective of this study was to investigate the prevalence of vertebral fracture using vertebral fracture assessment (VFA) dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) imaging in professional male rugby players. Ninety five professional rugby league (n = 52) and union (n = 43) players (n = 95; age 25.9 (SD 4.3) years; BMI: 29.5 (SD 2.9) kg.m2) participated in the research. Each participant received one VFA, and one total body and lumbar spine DXA scan (GE Lunar iDXA). One hundred and twenty vertebral fractures were identified in over half of the sample by VFA. Seventy four were graded mild (grade 1), 40 moderate (grade 2) and 6 severe (grade 3). Multiple vertebral fractures (≥2) were found in 37 players (39%). There were no differences in prevalence between codes, or between forwards and backs (both 1.2 v 1.4; p>0.05). The most common sites of fracture were T8 (n = 23), T9 (n = 18) and T10 (n = 21). The mean (SD) lumbar spine bone mineral density Z-score was 2.7 (1.3) indicating high player bone mass in comparison with age- and sex-matched norms. We observed a high number of vertebral fractures using DXA VFA in professional rugby players of both codes. The incidence, aetiology and consequences of vertebral fractures in professional rugby players are unclear, and warrant timely, prospective investigation.

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Publisher statement:Copyright: © 2014 Hind et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
Date accepted:20 April 2014
Date deposited:12 September 2018
Date of first online publication:20 May 2014
Date first made open access:No date available

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