Objectives—When protective headgear is designed, the attitudes of the intended users needs to be taken into account, as well as safety performance criteria. The aim of this study was therefore to determine the attitudes of schoolboy rugby union players towards protective headgear.
Methods—A survey of 140 rugby union players (82.4% response rate) from 10 randomly selected school teams in metropolitan Sydney was conducted at the end of the 1999 playing season. All players were aged 14–16 years. All teams had participated in a trial of headgear during the 1999 season in which six of the teams had been assigned to a headgear trial arm and four teams to a control arm. Players completed a self report questionnaire during a supervised session at school. The questionnaire collected information on recent head injuries, use of protective equipment, and attitudes towards headgear.
Results—Some form of protective equipment was always worn by 76.1% of players: 93.6% reported using a mouthguard and 79.3% a helmet/headgear during the 1999 season. The two most important reasons for wearing headgear were related to safety concerns. Players with no recent head/neck injury were more likely to report that they felt safer when wearing headgear (p<0.001) and less likely to cite a previous injury as a motivating factor for wearing headgear (p<0.001) than those who had sustained a recent head/neck injury. Of the players who wore headgear during the 1999 season, 67% said that they played more confidently when they wore headgear, but 63% said that their head was hotter. Few players reported that their head was uncomfortable (15%) or that it was hard to communicate (3%) when they wore headgear. The main reasons for not wearing headgear were related to its design features: uncomfortable (61%) and it was hot (57%).
Conclusions—The primary reason cited by players for wearing headgear is safety. Receiving an injury would also motivate non-wearers to wear headgear. Players report that they are more confident and able to tackle harder if they wear headgear, suggesting that a belief in its protective capabilities may influence behaviour. These attitudes need to be addressed in the design of effective headgear as well as in strategies to promote its use.
Key Words: headgear; rugby union; schoolboy; prevention; protection; safety