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Commitment to seeking an evidence-informed approach
When it comes to player welfare, Rugby Union governing bodies have committed to seeking and funding an evidence-informed approach. This involves using research to make informed decisions about policy, laws and injury prevention programmes. Over the last decade, a growing body of research has informed player safety, for example, modifications to scrum laws to reduce catastrophic head and neck injuries.1 However, major gaps remain, including tackle research focusing on the women’s game.2
A socioecological perspective
It is well understood that player welfare, specifically injury prevention, is a complex issue. To effectively address these complexities and make a long-term impact requires a dynamic socioecological approach.3 ,4 An athlete operates within a socioecological structure (individual, interpersonal, organisational, community) that is influenced by a web of inter-related factors and actors, both of which change over time and/or when a factor/actor is modified (figure 1). Typically, injury prevention research will identify player level factors that influence injury risk (risk factors), and aim to modify these factors through behaviour change interventions. However, the socioecological view emphasises understanding contextual factors influencing implementation of such modifications. For example, if the behaviour intervention is a training programme, how much time is available to implement the training programme? Or, is the training programme appropriate for all sexes?
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Contributors SH drafted the manuscript, CE, BJ, JCB, KD, SWW, KAS, RG, RT provided input. All authors edited and reviewed the final version.
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.
Competing interests BJ is employed in a consultancy capacity by Premiership Rugby, the Rugby Football League and Leeds Rhinos Rugby League club.
KS is employed by the Rugby Football Union, the national governing body for rugby union in England.RT is a research consultant for World Rugby. SH is a member of the BJSM editorial board.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.