Leeds Beckett University Sponsored PHD Studentship in collaboration with the Rugby Football League (RFL) – Evaluating, Developing, and Implementing a Head SafeTackle Coaching Curriculum in Rugby League

Leeds Beckett University

About the Project

Leeds Beckett University Sponsored PHD Studentship in collaboration with the Rugby Football League (RFL) – Evaluating, Developing, and Implementing a Head SafeTackle Coaching Curriculum in Rugby League

  • Full-time
  • We fund UK fees and provide a stipend of £18,622
  • Start date: 1 February 2024
  • Location: UK (Leeds based)
  • Funding note: The studentship has a bursary of £18,622 per annum (pro-rata into 12 monthly payments) plus UK Fees paid initially for a period of three years

Leeds Beckett University, in collaboration with the Rugby Football League, are looking to recruit a highly motivated individual to undertake research evaluating, developing, and implementing tackle coaching curriculum in rugby league. The PhD student will join a leading transdisciplinary team, involving academics, industry partners and a national governing body to deliver a highly impactful research project that directly benefits the players, and the sport. The candidate will have access to the world-class facilities at the Carnegie School of Sport including facilities in it’s £45m Carnegie School of Sport Building.

The quality of Carnegie School of Sport research is evident in the outstanding results achieved in the 2021 Research Excellence Framework, where we ranked 2nd nationally when accounting for both research quality and the number of contributing staff (Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism). Within the Carnegie School of Sport, the Carnegie Applied Rugby Research (CARR) centre, led by Prof. Ben Jones and Prof. Kevin Till, undertakes high quality applied research with international and national governing bodies, and a range of professional sports teams. The CARR centre has over 60 researchers, working collaboratively to improve athlete welfare and performance. 

The Carnegie School of Sport at Leeds Beckett University is purposefully driven by a focus on working together to make a positive difference. Our strength is the breadth and depth of our research, which is underpinned by the disciplinary experience of our colleagues and students. Pursuing an inclusive and ambitious research agenda, we cross the broad spectrum of the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities. Our research culture is founded upon a genuine commitment and capacity to work with others on real-world applied problems, to achieve impact beyond academia. From our leading work on talent development, coaching practice, and anti-doping, to our research in gender equality, ageing and obesity, we work to apply our knowledge to address some of the key issues facing our communities today.

View more about our Carnegie School of Sport Building and Facilities

The studentship is subject to external funding.

PhD: Evaluating, Developing, and Implementing a Head Safe Tackle Coaching Curriculum in Rugby League

Rugby league is an intermittent collision sport whereby players are required to engage in repeated high intensity locomotive and collision efforts, interspersed with low intensity recovery periods during match play. The majority of injuries in rugby league occur during the tackle (48% in the Men’s Super League and 63% in the Women’s Super League; Scantlebury et al., Under Review [available on request]. Of particular concern are head injuries, more specifically concussion (Eastwood et al., 2023), which occurs almost exclusively in tackle or collision events. 

Mechanisms of concussion during rugby league tackles are suggested to be different for the tackler and ball-carrier (Owen et al., Under Review [available on request]). For the ball-carrier, initial impact location and an interaction of the ball-carrier and tackler body positions are suggested to predict concussion. Whilst, initial impact location, tackler head placement, ball-carrier leading arm and the number of players involved in a tackle are said to be concussive risk factors for the tackler. The Rugby Football League (RFL) are now focusing on prevention, using passive and active measures (Hendricks et al. 2023). Recent interventions by the RFL have attempted to reduce both ball-carrier concussions and head impacts through a law trial (reduction in legal tackle height to the armpit) and coaching intervention (aiming to reduce head on head collisions), which have also been explored in other sports. However, in comparison to rugby union there is still a paucity of research into effective tackle technique to reduce injuries and further research into tackling practices and education is required (Hollander et al., 2021).

Coaches are key players in injury prevention and understanding their practice and development around tackle coaching is an important step in enhancing player welfare, safety, and effectiveness (Paul et al., 2023).Barriers that could influence a players tackle technique, such as lower standards of coaching and younger training ages, have been identified in women’s rugby league (Scantlebury et al., 2022). Optimising coaching practices relating to the tackle through the RFL development pathway is therefore vital for both performance and player safety. The successful applicant will be required to work collaboratively with the RFL to systematically evaluate the current tackle curriculum and coaching practices, collate best practice, and develop and implement a new curriculum through coach development opportunities.  

This PhD is part of a large-scale ongoing project between Leeds Beckett University and the RFL.

The project will involve:

i) Evaluation of current tackle curriculum and coaching practice (behaviours)

ii) Collation of current best practice in tackle coaching and coach development

iii) Development and implementation of new curriculum through resources informed by coach development principles

iv) Evaluating changes in curriculum and coaching implementation (behaviours).

Research Team: 

Dr Anna Stodter (Director of Studies )

Dr Cameron Owen (Supervisor )

Dr Sharief Hendricks (Advisor – University of Cape Town)

Professor Kevin Till (Advisor)

Professor Ben Jones (Overall Project Lead / PhD Advisor)

Chris Spurr (Rugby Football League)

Applicants are encouraged to discuss their proposals with Dr Anna Stodter and Dr Cameron Owen.

Further information on how to apply can be found here

The candidates will be expected to be based in Leeds, working both independently and collaboratively as part of a broader research team.

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