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Teuila Fuatai

Teuila Fuatai is a reporter for the NZ Herald

Cost of city's sports injuries nearly $1m

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Injured Rotorua rugby, league, netball and soccer players were paid out nearly $950,000 in lost wages and rehabilitation fees last year by ACC.

Figures released to The Daily Post reveal the number and cost of serious netball, rugby league, rugby union and soccer-related injury claims during the past three financial years.

Any injuries which required ACC to make weekly compensation payments for lost wages and rehabilitation are classed as serious. Those which required only medical treatment are not included.

More than half the amount paid out for Rotorua injuries related to rugby union. The number of new serious injury claims for the code locally was 55 last financial year, up from 44 a year earlier. It was 55 in 2009/10.

The total cost of serious netball, rugby league, rugby union and soccer-related injury claims during the past financial year was $946,653.

New Zealand Sports Academy director and founder Jim Love, who is based in Rotorua, said off-field preparation was important to injury prevention.

"A lot of people don't put enough emphasis on recovery systems.

"That's to do with stretching, warm-ups, warm-downs, proper hydration and nutrition ... which has a huge impact on sports injuries."

Mr Love, a former Maori All Black, has been coaching for 40 years. He works with up-and-coming rugby, league and netball players through his academy.

"Since when I was playing, there's been a huge turnaround in injuries."

Programmes which addressed correct nutrition, off-field recovery and safe game practices had contributed to a drop in injury numbers, he said.

The most common rugby injuries were shoulder, leg and knee injuries, which often occurred at the beginning of a season, Mr Love said.

A breakdown of new serious injury claims for Rotorua players in the past financial year shows 39 were netball-related, 19 for rugby league and 15 were soccer-related.

Nationally, the injury stats indicate the four "priority sports" - codes with high numbers of players and injury claim costs - are becoming safer.

The number of new serious injury claims for netball, rugby league, rugby union and soccer has steadily fallen in the past three years - down from 8473 in 2009/10 to 7856 in 2011/12.

The combined injury claims cost taxpayers nearly $230 million, according to ACC.

ACC programme manager for sport Joe Harawira said each code worked hard to reduce injuries within their communities.

"We set a target of 2 per cent reduction in entitlement claims from the priority sports of rugby union, league, netball and football [over the last two financial years]."

The target was well and truly exceeded, with an overall drop of 5 per cent, Mr Harawira said.

"What makes this result even more pleasing is that there were unprecedented increases in player registration in each of these priority sports last year."

Serious injury claim costs from the four priority sports comprise more than a fifth of all ACC sport and recreation-related claim costs, Mr Harawira said.

However, the most common type of sport-related injuries were "soft tissue" injuries, such as bruises, strains and sprains - which were not classed as serious injuries by ACC.

About $560,000 is dedicated by ACC to injury prevention programmes annually across the four sports, Mr Harawira said.

Reducing the severity of injuries suffered on the field or court was a major part of the programmes.

- ROTORUA DAILY POST

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