Front. Sports Act. Living
Sec.Sports Management, Marketing, and Economics
doi: 10.3389/fspor.2022.784103

Imposing compulsory, Rugby Union on schoolchildren: an analysis of English state-funded secondary schools

 Adam J. White1, 2, 3*,  John Batten4,  Nathan E. Howarth1, 2, 5,  Rory Magrath6,  Joe Piggin7, Pete Millward8,  Keith D. Parry9,  Melanie Lang10,  Rachael Bullingham3, 11,  Alan J. Pearce12, Luis Morales4, Gary Turner4, Connor T. Humphries1,  Jack Hardwicke4, 13,  Eric Anderson4, Graham Kirkwood14 and Allyson Pollock14
  • 1Oxford Brookes University, United Kingdom
  • 2Warwick Medical School, University of Warwick, United Kingdom
  • 3Concussion Legacy Foundation UK, United Kingdom
  • 4University of Winchester, United Kingdom
  • 5University of Sunderland, United Kingdom
  • 6Southampton Solent University, United Kingdom
  • 7Loughborough University, United Kingdom
  • 8Liverpool John Moores University, United Kingdom
  • 9Bournemouth University, United Kingdom
  • 10Edge Hill University, United Kingdom
  • 11University of Gloucestershire, United Kingdom
  • 12La Trobe University, Australia
  • 13University of Northampton, United Kingdom
  • 14Newcastle University, United Kingdom
Provisionally accepted:
Provisionally accepted: The final, formatted version of the article will be published soon.

Objective: to establish the extent to which Rugby Union was a compulsory physical education activity in state-funded secondary schools in England and to understand the views of Subject Leaders for Physical Education with respect to injury risk.

Method: a cross-sectional research study using data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (2000) from 288 state-funded secondary schools.

Results: Rugby Union was delivered in 81% (n = 234 of 288) of state-funded secondary school physical education curricula, including 83% (n = 229 of 275) of state-funded secondary school boys’ and 54% (n = 151 of 282) of girls’ physical education curricular. Rugby Union was compulsory in 91% (n = 208 of 229) of state-funded secondary schools that delivered it as part of the boys’ physical education curriculum and 54% (n = 82 of 151) of state-funded secondary schools that delivered contact Rugby Union as part of the girls’ physical education curriculum. Subject Leaders for Physical Education also perceived Rugby Union to have the highest risk of harm of the activities they delivered in their school physical education curriculum.

Conclusion: Notwithstanding discussions of appropriate measures (i.e., mandatory concussion training, Rugby Union specific qualifications and CPD) to reduce injury risk, it is recommended that Rugby Union should not be a compulsory activity given that it has a perceived high risk of injury and is an unnecessary risk for children in physical education.

Keywords: injury, risk, safeguarding, Physical education (P.E.), Curriculum, Risk acceptability, acceptance, school sport

Received: 27 Sep 2021; Accepted: 10 Jun 2022.

Copyright: © 2022 White, Batten, Howarth, Magrath, Piggin, Millward, Parry, Lang, Bullingham, Pearce, Morales, Turner, Humphries, Hardwicke, Anderson, Kirkwood and Pollock. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Adam J. White, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, United Kingdom