On being 'head strong': The pain zone and concussion in non-elite rugby union

Katie/K Liston, Mark McDowell, Dominic Malcolm, Andrea Scott-Bell, Ivan Waddington

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50 Citations (Scopus)
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In recent years there has been growing concern about concussion in sport in general andrugby union in particular. The qualitative study reported here draws on interviews (n=20)with adult players in non-elite club rugby union in Ireland in order to explore the framesof reference within which they perceive, give meaning to and manage concussion. Within asporting subculture which emphasizes lay sporting values – particularly the value of ‘playinghurt’ – and which reflects a functional view of injury, non-elite players tend to display anirreverent attitude towards concussion which encourages risky behaviours and underplays,ignores or denies the significance of concussion. We analogously describe these beliefs andactions as being ‘head strong’. The paper concludes by identifying the contextual contingencieswhich make the regulation of injuries in rugby union so difficult and by establishing some coreprinciples of public health education campaigns that might be deployed to militate against thehigh incidence of concussive injury in future.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)668-684
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Review for the Sociology of Sport
Issue number6
Early online date7 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Sept 2018


  • amateur
  • concussion
  • injury
  • pain
  • policy
  • risk
  • rugby union


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