The consultation of rugby players in co-developing a player health study: feasibility and consequences of sports participants as research partners

Madeleine A M Davies, Edward Balai, Jo Adams, John-Henry Carter, Andrew Judge, Julia L Newton, Nigel K Arden

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Background: Patient and public involvement ('involvement') in the UK has increased in accordance with funding requirements, patient-centered health policy initiatives and reporting of the positive impact of involvement for those involved, research and researchers. However, involvement has not been implemented equally across all disease areas and populations. The aim of this process was to involve rugby players across the research cycle of a player health study, ensure the study is player-centred, and that players had approved and informed the design of the study and its questionnaire from their playing experiences. 

Methods: Two group discussions were undertaken with current students who were playing rugby at a Collegiate University. All male and female University rugby players and two College rugby teams were approached to become involved. Sessions were chaired by a player-lead using a topic guide and were audio-recorded and transcribed. Player suggestions were extracted by the player-lead and discussed within the study team for inclusion in the player health study and its questionnaire. 

Results: Players readily engaged with the sessions and made many contributions to the development of the study and the questionnaire. Players discussed whether certain topics were being collected satisfactorily, and whether the questionnaire would encompass their playing experiences or that of other players. Players suggested where answers might be less reliable, and ways in which this could be improved. Players recommended additions to the questionnaire, and questioned researchers on the choice of language, motivation for question inclusion and if measures were standardised or novel. Alterations were made to the questionnaire based on suggestions, where these were agreed by the study team. 

Conclusions: Involving a group of players in the design of a player health study and questionnaire was not an arduous process and was rewarding for researchers. The process resulted in numerous alterations to the questionnaire and its functionality, which may improve response rate, the experience of players participating in the player health study, and their ability to report relevant information aligned with their previous experience. Player involvement in research was feasible to implement and improved not only the questionnaire, but also researcher confidence in the project and player experiences being accurately captured and leading a reliable data collection processes in a population with the potential for cultural bias to affect the ascertainment of health, pain and injury.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14
JournalResearch Involvement and Engagement
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 4 May 2017


  • Journal Article


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