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Ethics and injury risk in World Rugby and England Rugby tackle-height trial
  1. Adam John White1,2,
  2. Joe Piggin3,
  3. John Batten4,
  4. Gary Turner5,
  5. Alan Pearce6,
  6. Rachael Bullingham7,
  7. Eric Anderson8
  1. 1 Oxford Brookes University Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Oxford, Oxfordshire, UK
  2. 2 Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear, UK
  3. 3 School of Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences, Loughborough University, Loughborough, Leicestershire, UK
  4. 4 Department of Sport and Exercise, The University of Winchester, Winchester, UK
  5. 5 University of Winchester, Winchester, Hampshire, UK
  6. 6 Department of Rehabilitation, Nutrition and Sport, La Trobe University - Melbourne Campus, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  7. 7 University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, UK
  8. 8 Department of Sport and Exercise, University of Winchester, Winchester, Hampshire, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Adam John White, Oxford Brookes University Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Oxford OX3 0FL, UK; adamwhitephd{at}

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Concussion in rugby

Concerns about concussion in contact sport have permeated debate within sports medicine.1–4 Considerable scientific attention has been focussed on the short-term and long-term outcomes of concussions, as well as the strategies to reduce the risk of traumatic brain injury. The practicalities and impact of altering rules (laws) in sport—including the evaluation of outcomes—are often considered.

In the elite setting, World Rugby recently opted to lower the permitted tackle height in Championship Rugby.5 6 We believe this research intervention7 raises some ethical questions around informed consent and the right to withdraw, since the players were contractually compelled to participate. Unfortunately, rather than reducing injury risk, this research intervention also resulted in an increased risk of concussion.

Thus, we alert the reader to issues relating to the ethics and increased risk of injury following this research intervention and make some recommendations for the future.

Ethical practices

We are concerned by the ethical approval and participant selection processes employed in this research intervention. Indeed, this trial was conducted by World Rugby following research published by World Rugby employees.5 …

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  • Contributors All authors were involved in the development and authorship of this editorial.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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