Article Text

The relationships between rugby union, and health and well-being: a scoping review
  1. Steffan A Griffin1,2,
  2. Nirmala Kanthi Panagodage Perera3,4,
  3. Andrew Murray1,5,
  4. Catherine Hartley6,
  5. Samantha G Fawkner7,
  6. Simon P T Kemp2,8,
  7. Keith A Stokes2,9,
  8. Paul Kelly10
  1. 1 Centre for Sport and Exercise, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  2. 2 Medical Services, Rugby Football Union, London, UK
  3. 3 Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis Research Versus Arthritis, Botnar Research Centre, University of Oxford, Oxford, Oxfordshire, UK
  4. 4 Sports Medicine, Australian Institute of Sport, Bruce, Australian Capital Territory, Australia
  5. 5 Scottish Rugby Union, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
  6. 6 Bodleian Health Care Libraries, Oxford, Oxfordshire, UK
  7. 7 The Institute for Sport, Physical Education and Health Sciences, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  8. 8 Faculty of Epidemiology and Public Health, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  9. 9 Department for Health, University of Bath, Bath, Somerset, UK
  10. 10 Physical Activity for Health Research Centre, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Steffan A Griffin, Centre for Sport and Exercise, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH8 9YL, UK; steffangriffin{at}


Objective To scope the relationships between rugby union, and health and well-being.

Design Scoping review.

Data sources Published and unpublished reports of any age, identified by searching electronic databases, platforms and reference lists.

Methods A three-step search strategy identified relevant published primary, secondary studies and grey literature, which were screened using a priori inclusion criteria. Data were extracted using a standardised tool, to form (1) a numerical analysis and (2) a thematic summary.

Results and discussion 6658 records were identified, and 198 studies met the inclusion criteria. All forms of rugby union can provide health-enhancing physical activity (PA). ‘Non-contact’ and wheelchair rugby in particular provide a wide range of physical and mental health and well-being benefits. The evidence is either mixed or unclear in relation to ‘contact’ rugby union and its effects on a range of physical health domains. Injury and concussion incidence rates are high for contact rugby union relative to other sports.

Conclusions A wide range of stakeholders as well as existing and potential participants can use this information to make a more informed decision about participating in and promoting rugby union as a health-enhancing activity. Industry and policy-makers can use this review to inform policies and strategies that look to increase participation rates and use rugby union as a vehicle to contribute positively to population health. Further research understanding rugby union’s contribution to PA as well as to muscle-strengthening and balance is indicated, as well as research examining more health and well-being outcomes across more diverse cohorts.

  • rugby
  • physical activity
  • health promotion
  • well-being
  • injuries

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  • Twitter @SteffanGriffin, @nim_perera, @docandrewmurray, @drsimonkemp, @drkeithstokes, @narrowboat_paul

  • Correction notice This article has been corrected since it published Online First. The second author's name has been corrected.

  • Contributors SAG proposed the review. SAG, AM, KAS and SK identified the method and identified the framework for the review. SAG, AM, NPP and CH proposed the search strategy. All authors contributed to the development of the research questions and the study design. All authors developed the first and subsequent drafts of the manuscript, then subsequently reviewed and approved the final manuscript.

  • Funding This project formed part of SAG’s work with the Department of Primary Care and Public Health at Imperial College London, a remunerated post, as well as SAG’s work as a Sports Medicine Training Fellow at the Rugby Football Union. NPP is funded from the Centre for Sport, Exercise and Osteoarthritis Research Versus Arthritis (sports grant number: HFR02510).

  • Competing interests SAG receives remuneration for clinical work in professional rugby union, and is employed by the Rugby Football Union as a Sports Medicine Training Fellow. AM receives remuneration from Scottish Rugby Union for clinical work. SK is employed by the Rugby Football Union as medical services director. KAS is employed by the Rugby Football Union as medical research lead.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.