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Injury research influences UK sports strategy

Research and lobbying undertaken by public health experts at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) has helped change the UK government’s sports strategy.

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On 17 December, Sports Minister Tracy Couch published the government’s new strategy in response to four months of consultation, which includes the inclusion of more general fitness activities as well as formal sports, and a recognition of the need of a duty of care for sports participants.

The head of Public Health Research and Policy at QMUL’s Blizard Institute, Professor Allyson Pollock, campaigned for more than a year to increase government awareness of the injury statistics in sport, particularly amongst school children, and the need for more safety-conscious sports governance and promotion of fitness and activity over formal sports.

Professor Pollock, who is also Public Health and Policy lead for the Centre for Trauma Sciences, said: “The government has announced it has changed its position on, and more importantly funding to, formal sport in schools and sports bodies for children, now switching to promoting physical activity and safety and good governance and shifting the emphasis away from only funding formal sport to more general fitness.

“My team in collaboration with other academic institutions played a significant role in this decision. We held high profile seminars on injury in rugby attended by many key sports scholars as well as concerned members of the public, we generated peer review publications on sports injury and we presented our collective research as evidence to the health select committee last year.”

The evidence submitted to the health select committee included a call for guidance and oversight on communicating the risks of sport, a greater emphasis on promoting physical activity from non-competitive sport, and a recognition that ‘one size does not fit all’ when considering the needs of boys and girls in curriculum development and prioritisation of sports.

The new strategy includes the appointment of former Paralympian Dame Tanni Grey-Thompson, to head an Independent Working Group on a new Duty of Care for participants in sport that will look at “ways to make sport safer in the wake of concerns about concussions and cardiac arrests”.

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