Evaluating safety and risk awareness in contact sports: development of a quantitative survey for elite rugby Article

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Yanbing Chen
Seamus Kelly
Conor Buggy


Introduction: Considerable media attention has recently focused on an increased number of professional athletes that experience forced retirement due to severe injuries. Despite the highly completive, physical nature and tolerance of risk in contact sports, no Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) awareness-related measurement instrument exists in professional sports. As part of a wider project, this study aimed to develop a survey instrument to evaluate risk and safety awareness in sports, taking elite rugby (union) as an example. Methods: Based on the identified conceptual framework incorporating theories from the OSH discipline, the survey has been updated for three rounds according to the feedback from a multidisciplinary team of experts before the pilot test. The pilot test data (n=46, response rate 76.7%) were imported to SPSS for analysis and validation. The survey's key themes included health outlook, tackle behavior, awareness of risk acceptance, reasons for risk-taking, and safety consideration for other players. Results: Overall, the survey has a high internal consistency (Cronbach's α= 0.742). Some sections of the survey require a further factor analysis, such as awareness of risk acceptance during the competition (Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin Measure of Sampling Adequacy - KMO <0.767, p<0.001) and reasons for risk-taking (KMO<0.604, p=0.003). Some sections require a larger sample size for further validation, such as safety consideration for other players (KMO<0.481, p<0.001). Conclusion: This is the first survey that evaluates players' safety and risk awareness in rugby drawing upon OSH concepts. Such a survey has the potential to improve athletes' health and wellbeing by customized educational intervention, which could point the way forward for its application in a wider range of sport settings internationally.

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Author Biographies

Seamus Kelly, School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland

Dr. Seamus Kelly is a College Lecturer in the UCD School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science. Seamus has lectured on the BSc, MSc and Diploma in Sport and Exercise Management programmes since 2002. He holds BComm (1996), MBS (2001) and PhD (2010) degrees from UCD and a Postgraduate Diploma in Teaching and Learning from DIT. His doctoral research examined many aspects of management in professional football and was based on interviews with players, agents and managers in the English Premier League, Championship and League I & II. His work has featured in journals such as: Journal of Applied Sport Psychology, British Medical Journal, Sport Medicine-open, International Review for the Sociology of Sport, European Sport Management Quarterly, Soccer in Society and Sport in Society. Seamus has consulted with a number of National Governing Bodies (GAA, FAI) and professional football clubs in the UK and Ireland on the application of many aspects of his research. Much of this research focuses on aspects of player, coach and manager assessment and development. In terms of research, gaining access to the closed world of professional football was due, in part, to his previous professional (Cardiff City, St. Patricks Athletic & Bohemian F.C) and semi-professional (UCD & Longford Town) playing experience. Seamus is also a former UCD soccer scholarship recipient and was selected for the Irish Universities, Irish Beach Soccer and numerous Irish National League representative teams. He also attained one Irish B cap and numerous winners league medals from the UK and Ireland. Additional sporting achievements include GAA (Hurling & Football) playing experiences up to and including senior inter-county level with Offaly. Considerable coaching experience was gained with Shamrock Rovers, Drogheda United, Shelbourne and numerous senior inter-county GAA teams.

Conor Buggy, Centre for Safety and Health at Work; School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science, University College Dublin, Dublin, Ireland

I am an Assistant Professor in Occupational and Environmental Studies. I am the Programme Director for the Masters on Occupational Safety and Health and the Programme Director for the Professional Certificate in Environmental Management. I hold a degree in Environmental Science from TCD (1997 to 2001) and a PhD from DCU (2001 to 2006).Prior to UCD I worked for five years in the private sector as a project environmental scientist working on a wide variety of national and regional construction and planning projects ranging from ports to airports, motorways to power plants, regional plans to environmental licensing. Since I started in UCD in 2010 I have attained two further qualifications in teaching; a PCert in University Teaching and Learning (2016) and a PDip in Entrepreneurial Education (2017). My main areas of scientific interest include occupational risk awareness and safety culture and the impact communication has on organisations and society. I also have a significant research interest in teaching as an impactful mechanism of individual, organisational and societal change. My current research projects focus in particular on the impact education and training can have on behavioural change e.g. concussion training in athletes and the advancement of professional education for public health practitioners. I also have a developing research interest in social and environmental determinants of healthcare accessibility in developing nations in particular during and after emergency scenarios. Through my voluntary role as a researcher with the National LGBTI Federation I have become more involved in social research regarding minority groups and migrants here in Ireland. Aside from my Programme Diretor roles I also lecture and supervise research theses as part of the Masters in Occupational Safety and Health and as part of the TCD Masters in Development Practice (Adjunct Lecturer). I am also an active member of university community promoting Equality Diversity and Inclusion in all our activities on campus. I am currently an associate editor for Sustainable Environment Journal (formerly Cogent Environmental Science Journal). http://www.linkedin.com/pub/conor-buggy/a/321/b08