Junior league not safest: NCF

NORTH Coast Football (NCF) chairman Peter Rowe has challenged the validity of a survey showing junior rugby league is one of the safest team sports on offer.

He was commenting on a Coffs Coast Advocate story on March 2 where ARL Development officer Mike Castle pointed out an online link to a Westmead Children’s Hospital study which challenged public perceptions about injury rates in rugby league.

Statistics from the report show that children from six to 11 years had an average injury rate of 4.1 injuries per 1000 player hours, with three out of four cases considered minor, with players not missing a game.

“These figures confirm, because of the steps taken by the sport that there is a small risk of injury within junior rugby league,” Castle wrote when submitting the data.

“Injury rate comparisons for juniors showed that injury occurrences in junior rugby league are similar, if not lower than other sports.”

Rowe appeared critical that figures were used from a report compiled in August 1999.

“Who wrote this (finding)?” he asked. “(It’s) a 14-year-old study (with) no credible evidence at all in this.”

He also questioned why soccer was mentioned in the article.

“The inference is there and I’d like to see how many insurance claims were made at junior level in league last year,” Rowe said.

“I know soccer (was) zero.”

However, recent discussions among frustrated league development officers reveal they continue to battle against widespread assumptions that soccer is the only safe code for juniors, particularly when female teachers have major influence in determining which sports their schools offer.

These views were also expressed by AFL and rugby union contacts when opinions were canvassed for a recent series of articles regarding challenges increasingly faced by grassroots rugby league.

To support their case, NCF furnished ‘estimated’ details (see breakout) from the Dencorub National Health Survey 2001, compiled less than 18 months after the disputed Westmead Survey.

It shows percentages of which sports have the most injured participants, obtained from the Monash University Accident Research Centre.

Another survey, the Medibank Private Safe Sports Report 2006, shows the ‘top 10’ most injury-prone sports based on patient representations to Australia hospital emergency departments and general medical practices.

The age and corporate branding of all three surveys highlights the difficulties of obtaining recent, independent, accurate data from authorities such as the Australian Sports Commission, Australian Institute of Sport and State Departments of Sport and Recreation.

The Medibank Private survey appears to be the only one sanctioned by any of these government bodies.

Dencorub 2001 Survey

Which sports have the most injured participants?

Rugby Union


Rugby League










Horse Riding


Medibank Private 2006 Report

Most injury-prone sports

1 – Australian Rules

2 – Basketball

3 – Netball

4 – Running

5 – Tennis

6 – Cricket

7 – Football

8 – Aerobics

9 – Rugby League

10 – Rugby Union

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