An interdisciplinary exploration into whether tackling should be banned from rugby in school physical education

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Since the 1920s, medical professionals and researchers have been significant concerned with traumatic brain injuries sustained through sporting participation. Indeed, research has shown that subconcussive, concussive and repetitive trauma to the head can lead to a range of neurological, physiological, psychological and social issues and deficiencies. Yet, despite these concern, limited precautions and social progress has been forthcoming in regard to preventing or even reducing injuries within many team sport contexts (soccer and rugby being two examples). Of particular worry is that many sports, that have a high-risk of injury and brain injury for the youth population, also are delivered as part of the secondary school physical education curriculum. As such, this interdisciplinary thesis was concerned with exploring if tackling should be banned within the secondary school physical education environment. Firstly, through an analysis of how government and sporting institutions responded to the call to remove tackling from school sport, I found that officials and representatives used common discursive strategies to justify not taking preventative action. Secondly, in an exploration of the governance relationships between the Rugby Football Union, young people and school sport, it was recognised that there is limited opportunity for young people to directly input and influence decision-making in rugby union. Finally, through a national survey, it is apparent that rugby union is widely delivered in schools and most often a compulsory part of the secondary school physical education curriculum. This is in spite of being identified by most schools as their highest risk activity. It, therefore, is evident that the social provision is not appropriate for contact rugby, based upon the injury level, the lack of informed
decision-making and limited preventative measures to remove the risks associated with traumatic brain injuries.
Date of Award2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Winchester
SupervisorEric Anderson (Supervisor), Stewart Cotterill (Supervisor) & Tim Gamble (Supervisor)


  • concussion
  • injury
  • rugby union
  • prevention
  • risk
  • contact
  • medical
  • medicine
  • epidemiology
  • consent

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