A survey by the Girls Rugby Club, a global rugby club for girls founded by former England Red Roses player and current Harlequins captain Rachael Burford, has revealed the vast majority of female rugby players are unflinching in their desire to play the game despite the well-publicised risks of concussion.
The survey tallied the responses of 389 female rugby players from across the world following revelations last year that a number of high profile international rugby players were filing claims against World Rugby, the RFU and the Welsh Rugby Union over failures to protect them from the risks caused by concussion.
44.5% have experienced concussion from rugby
24% did not have the concussion diagnosed by a medical professional
22.6% have had multiple concussions from rugby
31.7% were not satisfied with the treatment they received
24.4% have continued to play on after suffering a concussion from rugby
27.5% believe not enough information is available on concussion in rugby
44.7% are concerned about the long term effects of concussion
84.3% feel the risk of concussion does not affect their willingness to play the game
89.5% feel their willingness to play rugby is not affected by the recent lawsuit involving former men’s international players
25.4% don’t do any specific training to prevent or reduce the risk of concussion
15.7% believe females are more at risk of concussion
54% do not believe females are more at risk of concussion
19.3% would not stop playing even if they received medical advice to stop
89.5% do not think girls should be treated differently when it comes to allowing contact rugby in schoolsResults collated from the answers of 389 respondents. Including female rugby players from England, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, New Zealand, Finland, Scotland, USA, Spain, Sweden and Canada who have played or currently play at all levels from grassroots through to regional/county representative level.
A staggering 89.5% said their willingness to play was not affected by the claims and 84.3% felt the risk did not affect their willingness to play. However, almost half (44.7%) said they were concerned about the long term effects of concussion.
The survey results have been released just days after MPs were told during a Parliament roundtable that women and girls are at a doubled risk of suffering brain injury in football and rugby and that men were often prioritised in the provision of medical care.
The evidence has prompted Girls Rugby Club founder Rachael Burford to call for more improved medical care for female rugby players at all levels and more support for players immediately after a concussion and upon their return to sport.
“It makes no sense that despite the increased risk to girls and women, there remains a gap in the medical support provided. What we’ve seen from our survey is that, particularly at grassroots level where there are not always physios available, girls are not following the correct return to play protocols, they’re often left to their own devices and are feeling forgotten about. There is also a big disconnect in the communication between coaches, parents and schools which could be putting girls at a greater risk of things like Second Impact Syndrome (SIS).
“We also know from our survey that the risk of concussion is not enough to put women and girls off the sport, so the emphasis now needs to be on education, awareness and providing the right level of care and support to enable them to play safely.”
Of the respondents who had suffered a concussion from rugby, almost one in three (31.7%) said they were not satisfied with the treatment they received and worryingly, almost a quarter (24.4%) had continued to play on after experiencing a concussion. Even more concerning was that 19.4% said they would not stop playing rugby, even if they received medical advice to stop.
Results from the survey also showed a lack of awareness that females are more at risk of concussion, with just 15.7% stating they believed that to be true, despite strong evidence to confirm it.
The survey is part of the Girls Rugby Club Player Welfare campaign, designed to share education, knowledge and resources on female-specific topics including concussion, physiology, the menstrual cycle, sleep and returning to sport after giving birth. The campaign is aimed at democratising access to credible information and to put a female lens on performance, health and wellbeing topics.
To see the full survey results go to girlsrugbyclub.com.
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