Drake Foundation study shows attitudes towards safety in grassroots sport

19 Feb 2021

By: Sport Industry Group

A new study has revealed the concerns that amateur footballers, rugby players and parents have about the long-term health risks from head injuries in both football and rugby.

A survey of 2,000 people was conducted on behalf of The Drake Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation which has funded more than £2million of scientific research into the health and welfare of sports players.

Some two-thirds of amateur footballers fear that heading the ball may be having a detrimental impact on their health, with 70% saying they want guidelines to restrict it in training. 48%, meanwhile, want less heading in matches.

The majority of parents (56%) want heading in training to be restricted for children aged 14-18, in line with restrictions already introduced for younger players, and 32% want it banned completely.

Meanwhile, in rugby, 63% of amateur players have decided to limit the amount they play, or to give up playing completely because of the issue, while 77% want to see tackling above the waist banned. 

According to the findings, 66% of parents want scrums to be banned from youth rugby and 65% want tackling to be banned from Under 14 rugby.

James Drake, founder of The Drake Foundation, said: “It is clear from these findings that the concern around brain health seen recently from professional rugby and football players is a sentiment echoed at all levels of the sports. We are saddened but not surprised to see that more than two-thirds of parents are concerned about the risk to their child from heading the ball, with similar statistics seen across youth rugby and amateur levels. 

“Whilst we all know that sport on the whole is good for us, there is no denying now that there needs to be a paradigm shift in both football and rugby’s approach to brain health, from grass-roots through to the elite level. As we start to see changes in the professional games, we hope these findings will help to speed up the implementation of rule changes also to protect younger and amateur participants, so both rugby and football can be enjoyed safely by all.”