Funded PhD Opportunity Sports-Related Concussion: A Socio-Historical Analysis

This opportunity is now closed.

Subject: Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism


Social epidemiology is broadly concerned with the ways in which social, political, cultural and economic structures, institutions and relationships influence health. In that regard, the sports-related brain injury known as concussion has both a neurological and social basis: it being the only injury that one international sports board (the IRB) seeks to define, and along with blood injuries, is subject to specific regulation. This project sets out to rebalance the information asymmetry associated with concussion in sport, that is, the predominance of the bio-scientific approach.

The project will redress this imbalance by examining the injury from a socio-historical perspective with a number of possible research avenues: an examination of the historical, medical and scientific literature related to head trauma in one or a number of competitive sports played in Ireland and Britain; archival research around one or a number of chosen sports to trace the growing awareness and understanding of sports-related brain injury over time and whether/how this has prompted reform efforts; a longer-term analysis of civilised bodies and the culture of risk in one or a number of sports, including changing discourses (in popular media, within various sports) around the diagnosis and treatment of concussion; interviews with current and former sports competitors, coaches/managers, medical personnel and the like.

This project will also permit the doctoral researcher the opportunity to consider the implications (e.g. policy, sports governance, coach education, athlete welfare) for the future development of sport and public health policy more widely.

Methods to be used:

The strengths and interests of the particular doctoral candidate will inform the final decision on research design once final research objectives are agreed. It is envisaged that the research methods will be chosen for their relevance to the project and no method will be given any primacy per se over the objectives of the research.

The candidate will refine detailed aspects of the methodology and analysis. Applicants should, in consultation with the lead supervisor, propose a detailed research design that enables them to explore the socio-historical milieu of injury in sport and brain injury in particular, the various socio-historical sources that may reveal the attitudes, beliefs and values of medical and sports people with regard to pain and injury, the ways in which such attitudes have been mediated historically by social relationships and power relations, and the implications for future developments in relation to the management of concusssion.

Objectives of the Research:

The following are the general objectives of the proposed project:

*To explore the socio-historical habitat and habits of competitive sports, in particular the historical normalisation of risk, pain and injury;

*To examine the socio-historical attitudes, beliefs and values held by those involved in/with competitive sport regarding civilised bodies and sports-related brain injury specifically;

*To examine the growing awareness and understanding of concussion in one or a number of sports in British and Irish contexts;

*To consider the implications of this for sport and health policy more widely, including that of concussion reform, coach education, athlete welfare and so on.

Essential Criteria

  • Upper Second Class Honours (2:1) Degree or equivalent from a UK institution (or overseas award deemed to be equivalent via UK NARIC)
  • Sound understanding of subject area as evidenced by a comprehensive research proposal
  • A comprehensive and articulate personal statement

Desirable Criteria

If the University receives a large number of applicants for the project, the following desirable criteria may be applied to shortlist applicants for interview.

  • First Class Honours (1st) Degree
  • Completion of Masters at a level equivalent to commendation or distinction at Ulster
  • Practice-based research experience and/or dissemination
  • Experience using research methods or other approaches relevant to the subject domain
  • Work experience relevant to the proposed project
  • Publications - peer-reviewed
  • Publications record appropriate to career stage
  • Experience of presentation of research findings
  • Use of personal initiative as evidenced by record of work above that normally expected at career stage.


    Vice Chancellors Research Scholarships (VCRS)

    The scholarships will cover tuition fees and a maintenance award of £15,009 per annum for three years (subject to satisfactory academic performance). Applications are invited from UK, European Union and overseas students.


    The scholarship will cover tuition fees at the Home rate and a maintenance allowance of £15,009 per annum for three years. EU applicants will only be eligible for the fees component of the studentship (no maintenance award is provided).  For Non EU nationals the candidate must be "settled" in the UK.

Other information

The Doctoral College at Ulster University

Launch of the Doctoral College

Current PhD researchers and an alumnus shared their experiences, career development and the social impact of their work at the launch of the Doctoral College at Ulster University.

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Key Dates

Submission Deadline
Monday 18 February 2019
Interview Date
mid-March 2019


Jordanstown campus

Jordanstown campus
The largest of Ulster's campuses

Contact Supervisor

Dr Katie Liston

Other Supervisors

  • Ian Millar

Apply online

Visit and quote reference number #344756 when applying for this PhD opportunity