PhD: Understanding the protective properties of padded clothing for use in Rugby Union

Summary
The successful PhD candidate will assist in the review of World Rugby Regulation 12 (Padded Clothing), working closely with team members from World Rugby, Manchester Metropolitan University and University of Sheffield. The PhD candidate will be responsible for investigating the material requirements for padded clothing, using finite element models to assess the latest innovations.

Aims and objectives
World Rugby are looking to revise and update their Regulation 12 (Padded Clothing) to better reflect modern advances in materials, technologies and playing style. The padded clothing aspects of Regulation 12 were devised in the late 90’s when rugby was only newly professional at the time, and although the game has changed considerably during this timeframe, the Regulation has remained the same. The intention of Regulation 12 with regards to padded clothing is to protect the wearer, and other players coming into contact with them, from cuts and abrasions. It was not intended to provide impact attenuation properties beyond this. World Rugby, Manchester Metropolitan University and University of Sheffield have formed a research team responsible for the revision and creation of a new, updated Regulation 12. The research team will consist of two PhD students, one based at Manchester Met (as advertised) and the other at University of Sheffield. Both PhD students will undertake fundamental research that will inform the requirements for the new Regulation.

The aim of the proposed PhD at Manchester Met is to identify material requirements for protection against cuts and abrasions in rugby without detrimental effect on the game. The successful candidate will review the state-of-the-art in padded clothing, investigating how manufacturers may look to apply the latest and emerging materials and technologies. The PhD will identify any unintended consequences of introducing new materials and make suggestions on how Regulation 12 should be updated based on these findings.

Objectives: 1) Review current literature relating to injury mechanisms in rugby and evolution of the game, protective sports clothing, finite element modelling of protective equipment and advances in apparel and material technologies. 2) To identify and characterise materials that could be used to prevent cuts and lacerations in rugby. 3) Develop and validate finite element models to assess the protective properties of padded clothing and the suitability of the latest innovations and technologies such as bioinspired, auxetic and negative stiffness materials and smart textiles. 4) Determine the best means of reducing cuts and abrasions through the use of padded clothing.

In the first year, the successful candidate will work closely with the PhD student at University of Sheffield to conduct mechanical testing of current padded clothing products. Testing will go beyond Regulation 12 to further the understanding of the protective performance in a range of scenarios. Using the facilities within the Engineering and Apparel departments at Manchester Met, the next stage of the project will be to identify and characterise new materials with the potential for development into a proof-of-concept prototype. In the second year, the focus will be on the development of a finite element model that will include skin and tissue simulants, novel textiles, materials, shapes and structures for padded clothing. Finally, results from the model will be used to inform recommendations for the updated Regulation 12. Throughout the project, the successful candidate will be encouraged to disseminate their work via journal articles, international conferences, public engagement events as well as working closely with World Rugby and other interested parties.

The work from both PhD students will assist in providing World Rugby with the knowledge required to predict how the next generation of products may perform and how best to monitor and regulate them; ensuring that the new Regulation is for the best interest of the players and for the good of the game.

The project will suit candidates looking to pursue a career in academia, but also those interested in entering the Sports Engineering industry, particularly in the design and development of tests for safety equipment. The candidate will join a growing team of Sports Engineering researchers at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Specific requirements of the project
Candidates are expected to have at least a 2:1 in an Engineering, Mathematics or Science related degree. A Merit or higher in a related Master of Science degree is also desirable. The ideal candidate will have expertise in one or more of the following areas: finite element analysis, material science, computer aided design, biomechanics, and sports equipment design and testing. The candidate is also required to have excellent experimental and communication skills, with the ability to work well in a team.

Student eligibility
This offer is open to UK/EU students only. Informal enquiries can be made to:
Thomas Allen: T.Allen@mmu.ac.uk