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Exploring head impacts and evaluating injury prevention strategies in youth rugby union

   Department for Health

  , Dr Carly McKay, , , Dr Sean Williams  Sunday, July 17, 2022  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project


The Rugby Football Union (RFU) oversees rugby in England and is constantly trying to understand the number and pattern of injuries to inform injury prevention strategies. In recent years, the University of Bath has worked with the RFU to develop programmes of injury surveillance at multiple levels of the game as well as the development of strategies to reduce injuries, such as an injury prevention exercise programme (Activate). Minimising the impact of injury will have a major impact on individuals and teams in terms of enjoyment and success as well as impact in terms of the public health burden of sports injuries.

The Project

The aim of the project, which is funded by the RFU, is to systematically examine the incidence, nature and severity of injuries sustained in youth rugby in England, and to specifically examine head impacts and head injuries in youth rugby players. The evidence gathered will inform strategies to reduce the risk of injury to youth rugby players. We are seeking a PhD student to work as part of a team delivering this project.

The project will involve:

(1) Prospective injury epidemiology to identify overall injury risk and specific injury patterns in a sample of schools and club teams.

(2) Exploring head impacts during rugby matches using video analysis and instrumented mouthguard technology.

(3) Evaluating injury prevention approaches (e.g., injury prevention exercise programmes, law variations, tackle training).

We are particularly interested to receive applications from individuals with a specific interest in exploring head impacts using instrumented mouthguards.

The student will be based at the University of Bath, but there will be a requirement to travel to schools around England as part of the project. They will work closely with other researchers and PhD students in CHi2PS and with staff at the RFU.

Preferred start date – 1st Sept 2022 (or earlier if possible)

The Successful Candidate should:

1. Fulfil the entrance requirements for a Department for Health PhD

2. Have a strong understanding of sports science, sports medicine, data science or epidemiology and associated research methods (including statistical methods).

The Department for Health is dedicated to providing a supportive and inclusive environment for our staff and students. The Department for Health hold a Bronze Athena SWAN award in recognition of our ongoing commitment to gender equality. We positively encourage applications from suitably qualified and eligible candidates regardless of sex, race, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, religion or belief, marital status, or pregnancy and maternity. We value, promote and celebrate inclusion, challenging discrimination and putting equality, diversity and belonging at the heart of everything we do. We aim to be an inclusive university, where difference is celebrated, respected and encouraged. We truly believe that diversity of experience, perspectives, and backgrounds will lead to a better environment for our employees and students, creating a learning environment and organisational culture that enhances health and wellbeing across our community.

Applicants should apply online to study for a full time PhD in Health. It is important to quote the project title (Exploring head impacts and evaluating injury prevention strategies in youth rugby union) on your application.

Please note that the application form will refer to a formal proposal. As this studentship is to work on a specific project, there is no need to write a formal proposal in this case. Instead, please provide a brief outline of your initial thoughts on the area of research as part of your online application. This should be no more than 500 words.

Enquiries and Applications

Informal enquiries are welcomed and should be directed to Professor Keith Stokes )

Formal applications should be made via the University of Bath’s online application form for a PhD in Health clearly stating the name of the project.

More information about applying for a PhD at Bath may be found on our website.

Funding Eligibility

In order to be considered for the available studentship, you must qualify as a Home student. In determining Home student status, we follow the UK government’s fee regulations and guidance from the UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA). Further information may also be found within the University’s fee status guidance.

EU/EEA citizens who live outside the UK are unlikely to be eligible for ‘Home’ fees and funding.

Funding Notes

The studentship includes Home tuition fees, a stipend at the UKRI standard rate (£16,062 per annum, 2022/23 rate) and research/training expenses (£1,000 per annum) for up to 3 years. Eligibility criteria apply, see Funding Eligibility section above.

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