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An empirical approach for defining acceptable levels of risk: a case study in team sports
  1. C W Fuller,
  2. C J Ward
  1. 1
    Centre for Sports Medicine, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK
  1. Dr C Fuller, Centre for Sports Medicine, University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG7 2UH, UK; colin.fuller{at}


Objectives: To determine acceptable levels of risk in sport and to compare these with values used in occupational settings.

Design: Cross-sectional, questionnaire-based study.

Settings: Seven soccer and 11 rugby union teams.

Subjects: 140 male athletes and 108 male and 100 female spectators associated with soccer and rugby union teams.

Main outcomes: Views on acceptable frequencies with which athletes sustain acute injuries of various levels of severity.

Results: The responses of athletes and spectators were similar, although spectators consistently indicated a higher acceptable frequency of injury than athletes. There were no significant differences in responses as a function of respondents’ gender and age. The results confirmed an inverse relationship between the acceptable frequency of occurrence and the severity of injury, although the relationships identified by the risk-averse and risk-taking minorities within the sample population were widely different.

Conclusion: The mean frequency–severity risk relationship identified by athletes and spectators in soccer and rugby was similar to the relationship routinely used for risk assessments in industry and commerce.

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