Research by World Rugby suggesting that female players are at a greatly increased injury risk if they are forced to compete against biological males should be of concern to all Australian sporting bodies.

According to media reports today*, a World Rugby working group has found that:

  • There is likely to be “at least a 20-30% greater risk” of injury when a female player is tackled by someone who has gone through male puberty.
  • The latest science shows that trans women retain “significant” physical advantages over biological women even after they take medication to lower their testosterone.
  • Current rules which allow trans women to play women’s rugby if they lower their testosterone levels for at least 12 months in line with the International Olympic Committee’s guidelines, are “not fit for the purpose”.

These findings are consistent with concerns raised by many athletes, participants and administrators about biological males competing in women’s sport. This includes public comments from Australian Olympians, the Australian Olympic Committee CEO, the Save Women’s Sports Coalition, and many women, girls and parents around Australia.

Rugby Australia now has a responsibility to be open and transparent about this research. Evidence about safety risks for female athletes is highly relevant to women’s sport at every level and should be made available to the general public and all Australian sporting bodies.

Rugby Australia is part of the Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports which last year partnered with Sport Australia to develop Guidelines for Trans inclusion in sport. Consultations on that document, which has subsequently attracted many complaints for its lack of regard for the impacts on women and girls sport, were held in secret with only a handpicked list of groups and individuals able to participate.

Further evidence of a serious injury risk to female competitors should prompt a rethink by Sport Australia and their partners on their approach to this issue to date – which is best encapsulated by Sport Australia’s position on protecting the integrity of women’s sport: “Sport Australia has not defined the term ‘woman’.”