Athletes’ Perceptions of Physical Contact and Injury Risk in ...

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Football and rugby in Canada are distinct sports with different playing rules, cultures, and objectives. However, both sports involve considerable bodily contact and force between opponents, and can lead to catastrophic, life-altering injuries, and even death. Drawing on semi-structured qualitative interviews with eleven male athletes who have competed in football and rugby in Canada, this paper examines athletes’ perceptions of physical contact and injury risk across the two collision sports. Parallels and differences in athletes’ perceptions of contact in rugby and football are highlighted through this comparative analysis. The athletes interviewed in this study reported that injuries are part of both sports and that severe injuries can result during play, but they also indicated a perception that they were more likely to experience severe injuries in football than rugby. The athletes in the study discussed reasons for why they perceived a higher risk of severe injuries in football than in rugby including differences in 1) contact rules, 2) pace of play, 3) the system of downs, 4) playing cultures, 5) coaching tactics, and 6) protective equipment. This paper concludes with strategies to reduce injury risks and enhance athlete safety in both sports based on athlete perspectives.