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Doctoral student in a lab

Concussion in Women's Sport

  • School: School of Science and Technology
  • Starting: 2021
  • Funding: UK student / EU student (non-UK) / Fully-funded


Interest in concussion and other traumatic brain injuries connected to sport have risen dramatically in the last decade. While the majority of the attention has been directed at men’s sport, more recent research has highlighted specific issues within women’s participation in similar activities. In this regard, there have been tentative conclusions suggesting that 1) there is a higher prevalence of concussion in women’s sport, 2) there appears to be some different mechanisms underlying women’s concussions and 3) post-concussion outcomes may be worse for women than men. Such conclusions are complicated by cultural norms that produce a relative underreporting of concussions, and there appears to be a set of important, yet under-researched, gender-based differences that are foundational to such experiences.

That the culture of sport can promote athletes taking risks with their physical safety has been demonstrated over multiple decades of social scientific research. A more recent phenomenon within such work, due to the rapid proliferation of women participating in previously assumed ‘male sports’, has been the manner in which women have also found themselves embedded in such cultural norms. Indeed, the professionalisation of various women’s sports has resulted in increased financial rewards and a greater potential for women to carve out a career in elite sport. As such, the associated risks, which have largely been the preserve of male elite athletes, are increasingly over-shadowing female athletic careers. If, as some research suggests, women’s experiences of concussion have a gendered dimension, their place within the culture of elite sport requires specific attention in order to fully explore and examine the critical issues that they face.
In order to further expand our knowledge on this topic, this research project will seek to address the following issues:

1. What are the cultural specifics of concussion and traumatic brain injuries in women’s sport?
2. What differences and similarities are there between women’s and men’s experiences?
3. What can be learned from women’s experiences in order to enhance the medical provision and post-concussion outcomes.

By combining multiple research methods including immersive participant observation, interviews and a wide-ranging survey this project will gain access to women playing in various elite sports.

The successful candidate will be able to demonstrate a willingness to develop skills in various qualitative research methods, an interest in the broad area of study (social scientific accounts of sport/health) and an ability to work well independently and under academic supervision.

Entry requirements: undergraduate Honours Degree, with an Upper Second Class of a First Class grade in sport science, social science or a related subject area.

Duration: typical three years full time

Funding: self-funded students only


Dr Christopher Matthews

Entry qualifications

Entrants must have an Undergraduate Honours Degree, with an upper second class or a first class grade in sport science, social science or a related subject area. Entrants with a lower second class grade at first degree must also have a postgraduate Masters Degree at merit or commendation.

How to apply

How to apply

The deadline for applications is 11:59 pm on 31 October 2020.

Interviews will take place between the end of January and early February.

Download an application form here.

Please make sure you take a look at our application guidance notes before making your application.

Fees and funding

This PhD is self-funded.

Guidance and support

Further guidance and support on how to apply can be found on this page.

Still need help?

Dr Christopher Matthews