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This paper examines the management of injuries in men’s elite rugby union in England and, in particular, how this has altered as a consequence of the (formal) professionalization of the game in 1995. Data are drawn from 42 in-depth, semistructured interviews, conducted with seven coaches/directors of rugby, nine rugby club doctors, ten physiotherapists, and sixteen players. Partly as a consequence of examining pain and injury developmentally, our findings contrast with much of the existing sociological research in the area. The professionalization of rugby union, we argue, has not led to a greater acceptance of pain and injury in the sport or to a higher level of pressure upon, or “coercion” of, players to play under such conditions. Rather professional players receive markedly better medical backup and seem increasingly disposed to utilizing it.
The authors are with the Centre for Research into Sport and Society, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK.