The consultation of rugby players in co-developing a player health study: feasibility and consequences of sports participants as research partners.
Davies MAM., Balai E., Adams J., Carter J-H., Judge A., Newton JL., Arden NK.
Many funding bodies within the United Kingdom and globally have encouraged public involvement in research. The Department of Health has also called public involvement a sign of good research. Despite the wide acceptance of public involvement improving many aspects of research, from its design to its communication, involvement has varied levels of implementation across different fields of research. Sports people have rarely been involved in research, partly as this research tends not to be funded by mainstream funding bodies. This may lead to a lower research quality, not founded in player ('service user') experiences. When creating a study of former rugby player health, we were very keen to involve rugby players, understand their thoughts on player health, and their playing experiences. This article explains how rugby players were involved in several ways, but mainly in group discussions during the design stage. These groups helped to inform our study's aims and questionnaire, ensure the questionnaire would capture player experiences and answer questions relevant to players, that they would like to understand after their participation in rugby. We found that these groups were easy to arrange, and that in only one session with each group, we were given many ideas of how to improve the questionnaire and study. We believe that other studies in sports should involve sports people, and that this is a useful activity that will change data collection forms and processes, improving the research, helping researchers, and making studies more suitable for players who take part in them.Background Patient and public involvement ('involvement') in the UK has increased in accordance with funding requirements, patient-centered health policy initiatives and reporting of the positive impact of involvement for those involved, research and researchers. However, involvement has not been implemented equally across all disease areas and populations. The aim of this process was to involve rugby players across the research cycle of a player health study, ensure the study is player-centred, and that players had approved and informed the design of the study and its questionnaire from their playing experiences. Methods Two group discussions were undertaken with current students who were playing rugby at a Collegiate University. All male and female University rugby players and two College rugby teams were approached to become involved. Sessions were chaired by a player-lead using a topic guide and were audio-recorded and transcribed. Player suggestions were extracted by the player-lead and discussed within the study team for inclusion in the player health study and its questionnaire. Results Players readily engaged with the sessions and made many contributions to the development of the study and the questionnaire. Players discussed whether certain topics were being collected satisfactorily, and whether the questionnaire would encompass their playing experiences or that of other players. Players suggested where answers might be less reliable, and ways in which this could be improved. Players recommended additions to the questionnaire, and questioned researchers on the choice of language, motivation for question inclusion and if measures were standardised or novel. Alterations were made to the questionnaire based on suggestions, where these were agreed by the study team. Conclusions Involving a group of players in the design of a player health study and questionnaire was not an arduous process and was rewarding for researchers. The process resulted in numerous alterations to the questionnaire and its functionality, which may improve response rate, the experience of players participating in the player health study, and their ability to report relevant information aligned with their previous experience. Player involvement in research was feasible to implement and improved not only the questionnaire, but also researcher confidence in the project and player experiences being accurately captured and leading a reliable data collection processes in a population with the potential for cultural bias to affect the ascertainment of health, pain and injury.