Women’s rugby has undergone rapid, global growth in recent years, with the total number of registered female players worldwide increasing by 28 per cent in 2018 alone. With women now accounting for more than a quarter of total players globally, it is important to further understand the impact the sport has on its female players.

Data on injuries and training techniques has almost exclusively been collected from male players in the past. The conclusions drawn are then generalised across the entire sport – including women’s rugby – and form the basis of rugby’s law changes and training methods.    

This is what’s known as a gender data gap. A global team of researchers and practitioners from across the world of sports science and medicine are working to close this gap.

Led by Elizabeth Williams, the international women’s rugby union survey will help inform new women-specific methods to improving player safety in the sport.

With a separate series of questions for players and coaches – available in English, Cantonese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Mandarin, Portugese, Russian, Spanish and Turkish – the survey covers topics including rugby experience, education around concussion, and the impact the menstrual cycle has on training and performance.

“There are many differences between male and female rugby players which are not limited to physical differences (although these are substantial),” Williams told World Rugby. “What we aim to achieve through this survey is learn as much as we can about playing experience, develop a database for normative values for things like heights and weights for different positions from women at different levels around the world.

“We want to know about the injury histories of women players, including concussion. We would like to understand the types of training women players do and how that relates to their playing level and their injury history. We also want to gauge the knowledge of concussion, recovery and the effects of the menstrual cycle on training and injury susceptibility of both players and coaches.

“This will help us design targeted educational and training strategies where this seems to be lacking. A big data gap in women’s sports, including in rugby, is how the menstrual cycle affects training, performance and injury patterns.”

‘Make the game safer for all’

The survey was published on 24 August and will run for eight weeks until 24 October. Williams has high hopes that, by identifying the key issues to be focused on in the women’s game, the data gathered here will provide the basis for much more female specific research.

“If we have at least 10,000 responses from around the world, this will provide a wealth of information that we can analyse, coordinate and share with the global women’s rugby community to make the game safer for all, and help coaches and athletes to train smarter, maximising the ergogenic advantages that female athletes have to reach their full, physical potential.”

All adult women rugby players and coaches of women rugby players at all levels from around the world are invited to complete the survey. Click here to share your input.