How Dangerous Is Rugby League?

When you have massive footy players using their bodies as battering rams for 80mins week in and week out, you know that can’t be good for the body. It would be a minor miracle to get through just a half of a rugby league without an injury occurring. It seems like rugby league players are constantly getting injured but is this true or just confirmation bias? It is time to take a look at the injury stats.

How dangerous is rugby league?

Rugby league is a dangerous sport with 40 injuries occurring per 1000 hours of match time. While concussions are also common, with 18 occurring per 1000 hours of play. Rugby is a risky sport with the chance of suffering an injury over 90% if you play 2 more seasons.

The statistics are clear rugby league is not a safe sport. If you play rugby league even for a few years your chance of suffering an injury gets into the high 90% range. Rugby league players are particularly susceptible to serious knee injuries and concussions. A bad knee injury can end a player’s career as they will permanently lose speed and agility and be forever at risk of reinjuring their knee. A single concussion can result in a player suffering permanent brain damage which can make life unbearable.

The longer you play the sport and the higher level you play the more likely you are to suffer a multitude injuries and severe injuries which require medical attention and surgery. If you are an aspiring rugby league player you need to be aware of the risks of the sport which have been shunned for quite a while. Slowly the truth about how dangerous the sport is coming to light. 

You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to realise that players crashing into each other at high speeds over and over again is safe. This constant high contact is the cause of over 60% of rugby league injuries as players get hit or twisted in the tackle resulting in tears, strains, breaks and lacerations.

Tackling is what causes rugby league to be so dangerous. This is evidenced by the fact that touch rugby has an injury rate of just 4.8 per 1000 hours of play compared to rugby league which has almost a 10x higher injury rate at 40 per 1000 hours of game time.

If you love rugby league but are concerned about how dangerous the sport is and don’t want to suffer injuries then touch rugby is a great safer alternative.

What Are The Most Common Injuries In Rugby League?

The most common injuries in rugby league are to the ankle, knee and thigh. Injuries to the legs make up 50% of all injuries. The most common leg injuries include The most common are ankle lateral ligament tears, knee anterior cruciate ligament tears, groin musculotendinous tears, hamstring and calf muscle tears.

If you like your knees and running pain free then maybe rugby league is not the sport for you. The sport places a tremendous amount of strain on your lower limbs as your ankles and knees get twisted and torqued as you make contact with your opposition in tackles or your hamstrings and groin get pushed to the limit when you are sprinting down the field. The result of this stress is an injury rate of 20 per 1000 hours of play to rugby league players’ legs. 

These injuries are often serious, requiring surgery and the potential to permanently end your league career. Many players are not the same after suffering groin tears, or destroying their MCL and ACLs. Achilles tears are also extremely difficult to recover from and can result in a permanent loss of speed.

Any time you step on the rugby league field there is a substantial risk that you will blow your knee out and then you forget about playing rugby again you will be lucky to just run or walk pain free. The danger of serious leg injuries, particularly knee injuries makes rugby league a high risk sport which should be avoided if you already have compromised lower limb joints and ligaments.

How Common Are Concussions In Rugby League?

Concussions occur frequently in rugby league at a rate of 18 per 1000 hours of game time. This is actually one of the highest concussion rates of any sport including American football which has a rate of 15 per 1000 hours of play. 

The frequency with which concussions occur in rugby league makes the sport very scary and risky. With more and more information coming out about just how serious a concussion is and the devastating effects it can have on the brain, rugby league has to be considered a dangerous sport.

The captain of the Leeds Rhinos, Stevie Ward has been forced to retire at just the age of 27 following the 2020 season after suffering from ongoing symptoms from two concussions he suffered in January and February, 2020. Ward says he suffers from severe daily symptoms and he just hopes he can get back to a normal life.

Ward talking about his symptoms said, “I experience migraines every day, balance and dizziness issues, sensitivity to light, screens and slurring my speech sometimes”. Disturbingly, Ward has been told by doctors that many of his symptoms may be permanent.

Ward said he can’t further risk damaging his brain and has therefore decided to leave his childhood club and the game he loves so much behind.

How many rugby league players think twice about playing the game if they knew that one or two knocks to their head could result in permanent daily migraines and slurred speech?

The fact that concussions are so dangerous to brain health combined with how common they are in rugby league makes the game extremely dangerous. All players should be explicitly explained the risks of head trauma before they start playing.

Your brain health is just not worth jeopardising by playing a sport. Even though rugby league is a great game do you really want to suffer from permanent brain damage from playing it.

If you are looking for an alternative as recommended previously you should play touch rugby which has a 9x lower concussion rate than rugby league at just 2 per 1000 hours of play.

Ward isn’t the first and he won’t be the last young rugby player to suffer brain damage from playing rugby. A recent study of a young rugby player who has a history of concussions has revealed that head injuries from rugby can accelerate brain ageing by shrinking and killing brain cells. The young player’s brain function was comparable to that of the average 60 year old. Rugby related concussions have the ability to accelerate biological brain ageing by as much as three decades.


Rugby league is not a safe sport. The high injury rate of 40 per 1000 hours combined with the high concussion rate of 18 per 1000 hours makes it a dangerous sport. Every time you play rugby league there is a decent chance you will suffer a serious knee or head injury which could permanently affect your quality of life. If you love rugby league but are looking for a safer alternative you should play touch rugby.

Recent Posts