[Press and Public Relations] Sports Injuries Study at University of Leicester Discovers Chinks in Body Armour Theory

February 2002

No 26

Researchers in sports injuries at the University of Leicester have discovered evidence which challenges the claim that 'body armour' has been a central reason for increased injury rates in professional rugby.

Previous studies claim that protective clothing has led players to tackle harder and so incur more injuries.  However, researchers discovered that whilst padding and scrum-caps did reduce minor injuries such as cuts and bruising, evidence from the players demonstrates that few expect the equipment to protect them from serious injuries such as concussion, broken bones and muscular strains. 

Although some players feel constrained to play with slight injury because of loyalty to team, fear of losing their place or monetary considerations the report, to be published in the Sociology of Sport Journal by Dominic Malcolm and Ken Sheard of the Centre for Research into Sport and Society, argues that the medical provision provided in professional rugby is much more effective than 10 years ago.

Dominic Malcolm said: "Despite the fact that under professionalism players are willing to play with pain, they are less willing to play, and less likely to be asked to play, with injuries that might be exacerbated by further exposure. 

"Some players feel constrained to play with slight, non-serious, injuries because of loyalty to team, fear of losing their place and monetary considerations. Injury rates are high - a premiership player stated that he thought about 90% of players taking the field would be taped up, or have some bruising or slight 'niggle'. Oral painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs are taken on a very regular basis. But players are increasingly looking after their bodies and their long term health. Compared to other sports, coaches and directors of rugby are understanding and supportive of players in these matters."

Research started in September 2000 and is ongoing. Researchers have so far canvassed the views of 42 players, coaches, doctor and physiotherapists involved in the game. It also posed the question: Has body armour contributed to higher injury rates? 

The researchers state: "As far as we are concerned the jury is still out on this issue. Most of our interviewees would agree that the increased speed of the game, the growing size, fitness and strength of players, together with changes to the game itself, means that the possibility of injury also increases.

"What they did not accept, on the whole, was that there was a correlation between the increase in padding and increased injury. Most players did not believe that they tackled harder because of padding, and while accepting that padding might reduce bruising and training hazards, did not accept that it either provided protection against more serious injury or encouraged its infliction."

NOTE TO NEWSDESK: For further details, please contact. Dominic Malcolm 0116 252 5939 - AVAILABLE FOR INTERVIEWS ON FRIDAY FEB 1 or email dem4@le.ac.uk

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