Studies of elite and professional athletes have pointed to a high level of tolerance of painamong such athletes, coupled with a willingness to continue training and competing evenwhen injured and in pain. The central object of this article is to examine some of the waysin which non-elite players of rugby union and rugby league at a British universityrespond to and manage pain and injury. The central finding is that the attitudes andbehaviour of the non-elite rugby players appear to be broadly similar to the attitudes andbehaviour of elite and professional athletes in other sports. This suggests that keyelements of the ‘culture of risk’ which has been identified in elite and professional sportare not confined to elite sport but that they are also characteristic of non-elite sport.Particularly important in this regard is the culture of ‘playing hurt’, that is, continuing toplay with pain and injury, the value of which is clearly accepted by the non-elite rugbyplayers in this sample. These findings suggest that the ‘culture of risk’ cannot beadequately explained in terms of relatively recent commercial and financial pressures inprofessional and elite sport to ‘play hurt’, but that it may be a more deeply rootedcharacteristic of sport at all levels. The paper also examines some of the implications ofthese findings for government policies designed to improve the health of the nation byencouraging people to participate in sport.ISSN 1743-0437 (print)/ISSN 1743-0445 (online)/06/030388-15 q 2006 Taylor & FrancisDOI: 10.1080/17430430600673407Katie
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