Rugby injuries across Wanganui far outnumber football injuries, with taxpayers forking out millions on winter sport injury rehabilitation claims, ACC figures reveal.
Often perceived as a safer sport, football injuries in Wanganui resulted in 335 ACC claims last year at a cost of $390,463, compared to 537 rugby injury claims at $1,149,737, an increase on 2012 figures.
The top five injury categories for football and rugby were soft tissue injuries such as strains, sprains, or contusions; fractures or dislocations; "lacerations, punctures or stings"; dental injuries; and concussion or brain injuries.
Nationally football caused 38,487 injury claims last year costing $28,598,582, as opposed to rugby with 64,280 claims at $67,133,311.
Excitement is building ahead of the Fifa World Cup kick-off next week, with local clubs hoping it generates a spike in player numbers.
Although more younger players turn to football than rugby, the beautiful game has about 115,000 registered players nationwide across all age groups, compared to rugby with more than 148,000.
Wanganui football development officer for Central Football, Matthew Kilsby, said knee injuries were common among players.
Fifa has designed a football injury prevention programme called Fifa 11+, which has been rolled out in New Zealand in conjunction with NZ Football.
The extensive warm-up programme aims to reduce injuries in players aged 14 years and over.
Mr Kilsby said Central Football was rolling out the programme within its federation talent centre, and promoting it among Wanganui clubs. Parents tended to enrol younger children in football instead of rugby because of injury fears, he said.
Physiotherapist Hamish Aston, who has experience with international football teams, said the main injuries he dealt with were ankle injuries from tackling and hamstring strains from running.
Early in the season he often saw shin splint injuries from running on hard ground and as the ground got muddier more players were prone to tired muscles.
He was seeing more elite junior players in the 12-16 age group who were "over-worked and over-trained", but it was hard to predict how their injuries would affect their sporting future.
Ashton was concerned at a lack of awareness and funding around football injury prevention programmes, but was an advocate of the Fifa 11+ programme.