Under-16s rugby injuries costing $8.79m a year
Thousands of young people injured themselves while playing sport last year, and the most common way they did so was playing our national game.
Figures provided by ACC show just more than 21,000 claims were lodged in the first 10 months of last year by under-16s who were injured playing rugby.
The cost of rugby injuries was $8.79m, more than double that of football, for which 11,911 claims were lodged, totalling $3.46m.
Payouts for netball injuries for under-16s was third on the list at $3.3m, swimming fourth at $2.56m, and cycling fifth at $2.33m.
According to the most recent Sport NZ survey, almost 400,000 boys and girls aged between 5 and 18 played rugby in 2011.
Football was even more popular, with 460,000 participants, basketball recorded 367,000 players, and swimming was one of the more popular activities, with 613,000.
New Zealand Rugby Union medical director Ian Murphy said the introduction of injury prevention programme RugbySmart in 2001 had seen a steady decline in serious injuries, especially severe spinal injuries sustained in scrums.
Law changes had also helped reduce serious injuries and it was likely improved medical care meant more minor injuries were being reported.
While more could be done and expansion of the RugbySmart programme was planned, there would always be a higher level of injuries in a contact sport.
"At the heart of rugby there's a contact element, and I believe that, while we should be looking to minimise dangerous impact, there's a degree of inevitability there's going to be some contact in the sport and an injury may happen.
"If you were to have rugby without contact, I'm not sure you have got rugby."
ACC sport and recreation programme manager Isaac Carlson said claims for sporting injuries were increasing, probably due to better access to recreational activities and a rise in the popularity in cycling.
The pleasing thing was that, while claims were up, they were mostly minor injuries, and serious claims were falling.
In the past the main focus had been on the four big sports in New Zealand, rugby, football, rugby league and netball.
A lot of work continued to be done in this area, working with each sport's governing body, focusing on injury prevention, best practice and equipment, he said.
But increasing attention was being given to recreational activities such as cycling, mountainbiking, running, snow sports, swimming and tramping as they became popular.
"That area's a lot more challenging than the conventional sports . . . the challenge we have with recreational is we have to target prevention methods across the whole population."