The social sports causing Kiwis the most pain have been ranked by ACC - and it's little surprise what pursuit hit the country hardest in compensation during the past year.

Injuries sustained while playing rugby union led all other sports, with medical costs and income support totalling more than $71.8 million during the 2017/18 financial year.

The payouts covered 64,024 new and active ACC claims made for rugby union injuries during the 12-month period.

Union dwarfed the next costliest sport, football injuries, which led to $37.5m in compensation.


Injuries sustained at the gym came in third, costing $34.2m.

Rugby league was sixth, costing $18m ,008,991, and touch rugby was 10th on $12.3m.

Scrutinising the different types of rugby union injuries revealed soft tissue injuries were by far the most common, with 49,599 claims last financial year - costing $36.5m.

Concussion treatment and compensation was rugby's fourth most expensive type of injury, totalling $2.9m.

Aucklander Gordon Penny, 30, said he had made between 10 to 15 ACC sports-related injury claims for club rugby and cricket since he was a child. One was for a rugby concussion when he was 16, playing for Mahurangi College.

"It was probably before they started to put a bit of emphasis on concussion. I basically just made a tackle and got a knee to the back of the head," he said.

"For the next two or three weeks I was really foggy, it just wouldn't go away. I just kept playing through it, probably getting more concussed. It wasn't policed or anything back then in terms of safety."

Penny was eventually taken to hospital for a CT scan, for a suspected brain aneurysm, but was diagnosed with delayed concussion.

The medical advice for Penny was to steer clear from sport for another three weeks until they symptoms wore off.

"It really affected me, my nerves and my feeling. It would be five degrees, middle of the night, and I'd be walking around in a T-shirt and shorts and not realise it was cold," he says.

"It was a weird feeling, awful to go through."

Awareness of the signs and risks around concussion has dramatically risen because of NZ Rugby's safety priorities.

The national body now has a Graduated Return to Play timeline, which sets out a 23-day schedule dictating what level of physical activity is advised post concussion - from rest, to light aerobic exercise, to full contact practice.

There is also a sideline concussion checklist to determine the signs and symptoms of concussion during the game.

NZ Rugby Foundation CEO Lisa Kingi-Bon said rugby received unfair scrutiny around its injury rate, which was more a reflection of participation levels than actual risk.

Kingi-Bon says there are 157,000 registered rugby players in New Zealand, playing 32 weekends a year.

She says the NZ Rugby Foundation deals with the "real sharp end of the wedge" when it comes to rugby injuries, working with 97 "very injured players" (VIPs) who have suffered a "permanent disability and assessed to have 25 per cent whole body impairment".

Kingi-Bon was keen to stress, of ACC's 82 identified spinal cord injuries during the 2017 calendar year, only one was from rugby.

Despite this, spinal injures for rugby union and rugby league amounted to $3.2m in ACC claims in 2017/18.

"Rugby is the only sport that has a foundation, so that when something really serious does happen, we're the only code that insures our players from age 5 to 64," Kingi-Bon said.

In total, ACC sports injury claims amounted to $2.2 billion over the past five financial years back to 2013.

Breaking down in the boogie

Rodney Hide dropped Krystal Stuart in Dancing with the Stars. Photo / NZPA
Rodney Hide dropped Krystal Stuart in Dancing with the Stars. Photo / NZPA

One sport that might not spring to mind when it comes to inflicting a heavy physical toll is dancing - but it made the top-15 list with $6.8 million in ACC payouts in the past financial year.

Dancing with the Stars New Zealand professional partner Krystal Stuart knows all about the pitfalls of the polished ballroom floor.

Her celebrity partner, then ACT Party MP Rodney Hide, infamously dropped her during a routine on the 2006 series.

While Stuart says she wasn't injured by the graceless thud, "only very surprised", she has had numerous injuries covered by ACC over the years, mainly soft tissue.

"Dancing is as low impact of high impact as you make it. Like any sport, the more highly competitive, the more high intensity it gets," Stuart says.

"On shows like Dancing with the Stars you have to be extra careful as the training load comes on heavy and fast.

"But we are dance athletes and professionals at what we do, so we know how to support our bodies during the demands of the show.

"The show also supports the celebs and dancers alike with osteo and soft tissue maintenance, and some are sponsored by Pilates studios to help support their dancing journey."