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Great Learning Experience for Hartpury College Student Kirsten Wing at RugbySafe Conference

Kirsten Wing, a  BSC(Hons) Sports Therapy student  at Hartpury College recently had the opportunity to attend the  RugbySafe Conference 2017. The 2nd year student represented Hollie Bailey, Senior Sports Therapy Lecturer at Hartpury and also Head of Sports Medicine at Dorset and Wilts County Rugby. Hollie had been unable to attend the event but rather than waste the invite, the forward thinking Lecturer extended it to one of her students to gain some brilliant experience and to report back to Hollie, staff and students on the event.

Kirsten takes up the story.

‘The RugbySafe Conference 2017 saw researchers and representatives from all over England gather in Warwick for what promised to be an innovative discussion around putting the ‘welfare of the player at the heart of the game.

‘Discussions around player welfare insights and epidemiology studies presented by Dr Mike England and ‘Training & Education Regulation and Guidelines’ presented by Rachel Brown, produced the highlights of the day. The results from the national rugby survey were also discussed. It reported a growth in players and the frequency of playing rugby had also increased’.

One particularly interesting fact that came out showed that the growth status for medical support staff is unknown. Kirsten said :

‘It was highlighted that this surge in players and amount of rugby being played requires more medical staff at grass roots. For me this emphasises the growing need for Sports Therapists who are Members of The Society of Sports Therapists to work at amateur level.’  

Kirsten had also reported back on Rugby Aware, which aims to demonstrate the RFU’s commitment to player welfare and help clubs understand their responsibilities. A structured warm up course to be rolled out in the summer had shown promising results, potentially reducing rates of injury, including the occurrence of concussion.

It was good to hear that rules are being tightened particularly for young players. Kirsten said : ‘Clubs who had piloted new safety projects reported their findings; this included the issuing of a player/guardian signed concussion letter acknowledging the suspected injury; this is then passed on to the relevant schools, clubs and or county.’

She continued: ‘The room sounded unanimous when the suggestion was made to clamp down to ensure first aiders are present at every game played whether it’s 15’s, 7’s, 10’s etc. After all as one Safety Officer said: “the aim is to create a safe playing environment where players can play more, longer and safer”

Hollie, who is also a Director at STAR Medical Clinic, having heard the feedback said: ‘We can expect the RFU to be clamping down to ensure the welfare of the player. It also highlights the importance of and need for Emergency Care and Injury Prevention that Member Sports Therapists can provide within rugby”.

We asked Kirsten how she felt about the experience. She said:

"I felt honoured to be asked by Hollie, however I was nervous as I didn’t know what to expect. The conference was one of the most informative and enlightening experiences I have had since moving to the UK to study. It showed me that Sports Therapists have to reassess the safety risks and think about how to manage injury prevention. I really enjoyed getting to meet qualified therapists and it made me feel positive about the career opportunities there are for me when I graduate. It made me think about the bigger picture and how research is so important to inform practice with regards to injury epidemiology and providing a safe playing environment”.

The RFU approached Kirsten and enquired if she would like to complete her dissertation on current medical provision in rugby union. Hollie said: “It just shows the importance of students to attend conferences, where they can network to find work placement opportunities and witness first-hand the need for good quality research, which ultimately they can contribute towards”. 

Below are some key links from the conference :

Overview of the Rugby Safe Programme:

Reducing musculoskeletal injury and concussion risk in schoolboy rugby players with a pre-activity movement control exercise programme: a cluster randomised controlled trial

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