Investigation Suggests Concussion in Women’s Rugby Going Unreported

Investigation Suggests Concussion in Women’s Rugby Going Unreported

A recent investigation suggests team spirit can be more of a hindrance than a help when it comes to reporting concussion in women’s rugby

This has been revealed by a fresh investigation conducted by sports specialists from Staffordshire University and Atlantic Technological University, examining perspectives in high-level women’s rugby union.

As per Dr. Alex Blackett, who heads Sport & Exercise at Staffordshire University, the involvement of women in rugby union has grown notably in recent times. Nevertheless, sports science has historically prioritized men, and the issue of concussion in women’s rugby remains extensively unexplored, despite being aware of the hazards.

“We are aware that female sports players could face a higher probability of experiencing a concussion, requiring a more extended period to recuperate, and encountering more intense symptoms in comparison to their male counterparts. Hence, comprehending the factors that could impact players’ perspectives concerning such injuries and their management is critical.”

The investigation scrutinizes how the “social identity approach” could either facilitate or obstruct the divulgence of sport-linked concussions among professional female rugby players, based on extensive interviews with them.

Dr. Lisa Ryan, who oversees Sport Exercise and Nutrition at Atlantic Technological University, clarified that “social identity” denotes a shift in thinking from “I” and “me” to “we” and “us” concerning a group of individuals. This change in thinking could affect various aspects such as behaviors, beliefs, stress management, cognition, and wellbeing.

“Although several studies have emphasized the potential advantages of social identity concerning athletic performance and sports leadership, evidence also exists to indicate that social identity could adversely impact health.”

All of the individuals who participated in the investigation were rugby union players representing Ireland or countries in the UK at an international level when the data was gathered. The study determined that brain injuries are frequently not reported or disclosed. Unlike visible physical injuries like a broken arm or a torn hamstring, it is plausible to conceal the indications of a concussion from the coaching and medical staff and persist in playing while being injured.

The players who were interviewed exhibited a powerful shared social identity as “women in rugby,” standing together in their fight for enhanced support and acknowledgment for women’s rugby. This shared social identity generated both advantageous and disadvantageous consequences for divulging instances of concussion.

Numerous players admitted to continuing to train while being injured or returning from injury too soon. One of the reasons for this behavior was the sensation of being an “outsider” when injured and missing their teammates. In comparison to the men’s game, where there are more players, the women’s game has fewer players, which could contribute to a strong sense of responsibility to play despite being injured.

A frequent observation throughout the interviews was the absence of consistent access to medical care, including physiotherapy. Several women who participated in the interviews declared that they lacked sufficient knowledge regarding concussion and brain injury. Consequently, players relied on each other to learn about managing their injuries.

The investigation, nonetheless, accentuated the highly affirmative role that players could play in looking out for and safeguarding one another. The researchers aspire that these findings could be utilized to advise sport psychology interventions aimed at enhancing the disclosure of sport-related concussions among elite women’s rugby players.

Dr. Blackett further commented, “Our study revealed that players themselves could be vital in disseminating knowledge on concussion and brain injury management. To stimulate changes in behavior, coaching staff and sports psychologists should contemplate using player role models to assist in communicating the message about concussion education.”