Online news media reporting of football-related fatalities in Australia: A matter of life and death

Lauren V Fortington, Sheree Bekker, Caroline F Finch

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OBJECTIVES: While deaths in sports settings are rare, they do occur. To develop an understanding of the sports and people most at risk, and to identify opportunities for prevention, routine and systematic data detailing the occurrence of these fatalities is required. There is currently no routine reporting of data of this nature in Australia. As there is often strong community interest in these incidents, the media offers an opportunity for surveillance. However before this can occur, understanding of the terminology used by the media is required. The aim of this study was to identify the terminology most frequently used in online Australian news media coverage of football-related deaths.

DESIGN: Retrospective review of online news media.

METHODS: Three databases were searched for online news media reports of people who died while participating in football (all football codes) in Australia. A descriptive analysis of terminology was undertaken to identify the common language applied.

RESULTS: Thirty-four football-related fatalities in Australia were identified between 2010-2016, via 149 separate articles. The most frequent terms identified in the media items were: Family; Club; Rugby; Football; Player; League; Died; Game; Death; Life; Loved; Hospital; Match; Young; Community; Playing; Friends; Sport; Heart; AFL [Australian Football League].

CONCLUSIONS: This study identified terminology used in reporting football-related fatalities in Australia, identifying common reference to terms relating to 'death' as metaphors and the frequent celebration of 'life.' The findings suggest that a reliance on researcher-generated terminology will be insufficient to reflect media discourse in prospective monitoring of sports deaths for surveillance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)245-249
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Science and Medicine in Sport
Issue number3
Early online date21 Jun 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2018


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Athletic Injuries/mortality
  • Australia/epidemiology
  • Football/injuries
  • Humans
  • Mass Media
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Soccer/injuries
  • Terminology as Topic
  • Young Adult


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