Rugby Player to Coach to Researcher: Kilian Bibby IRIS Researcher Profile.

Kilian Bibby made the move earlier in 2023 from rugby strength and conditioning coach in France to join the Irish Rugby Injury Surveillance (IRIS) project team. I caught up with Kilian to ask him a bit more about his previous roles and what he has planned for his PhD…

Where did you move from and where is home originally?

I moved from a small town in the South-West of France, Mont de Marsan. I was working for Stade Montois Rugby in the ProD2 as a S&C coach. My original home is Konstanz in Germany right next to Lake Constance and the Swiss border, pretty picturesque to be honest.

Where and what did you study at university?

I studied both my bachelors and masters in Germany. I studied health management in my bachelors while working in a physical rehabilitation centre. I didn’t start my masters straight after my bachelors as I had the opportunity to intern with the Hawkes Bay Rugby Union in New Zealand as an S&C for a year. The time in New Zealand gave me a good direction on what I wanted to do so I eventually did my masters in sport science with a focus on high performance.

Did you get into rugby as a player first?

Yes, I started when I was about 13 or 14. I do still play and did so in every country I lived in, I am just not as good at it (laugh). I realised quickly that I would never be a professional player so my way into the professional set up had to be through a different route.

Does your experience as a player help on your S&C roles with teams?

Yes 100%, multiple components that are transferable; the first one would just be the practical one being able to jump into conditioning games, filling up the defence or catching kicks. The bigger one is that Rugby has a special environment consisting of extremely different individuals and characters and this is the same in amateur as it is in professional. Knowing how to handle these diverse people, who you can joke around with, or who is more affected by small or focused talk is also something I learned through playing and captaining teams.

Why the change in direction now to study for a PhD?

I often found myself in situations where I would implement a new system or training modality for players or teams to then leave the club or position without being able to see the long-term improvements of my work. The longer duration of this opportunity with the aim to change something, in the sport I love the most, fulfilled a lot of the components I was looking for. My masters also showed me that there is still more to go for and that I haven’t reached my full academic potential yet. It also helped that I worked for Benetton Treviso Rugby for my masters thesis doing some research for them and found that the analytic part and academic writing was something I was capable of. Coaching and in a sense, teaching was always something I enjoyed and to do this at the highest academic level a PhD is the obvious next step.

What attracted you to Ireland, and UL, and the IRIS research group?

Well Ireland is a country I haven’t lived in and only visited once before so that was something to put into the equation. Not being far from friends, family, and my partner in Germany made the decision easy. When it came to UL, the facilities and quality of research speak for themselves. With UL just recently once again being in QS world top 100 for Sport Related Subjects confirms my decision. Finally, IRIS, when looking into the program, having sustained a decent number of injuries through rugby myself, helping to improve player safety and welfare is something I am really interested in. A lot of my S&C work involved getting players match and training fit after injury, going deeper into the origins and mechanics of those injuries seemed promising.

Tell me a bit about your PhD topic.

My focus is the injury surveillance in the women’s game and to be more specific breast injuries in female rugby union players. It’s an injury that is currently not being reported or monitored by existing injury surveillance systems and literature on its occurrence, severity and mechanics is more than scarce, something I am aiming to change.

What do you think are some of the key player welfare areas of the rugby game that we should be addressing as researchers?

Tricky, Rugby is such a physical game, and it lives from its physicality so you can’t take that component away. Improving player welfare is an ongoing process as rugby evolves continuously. Besides the obvious, being the reduction of concussion risk, the work we are doing as researchers is exactly what needs to be done: identification of injury patterns and mechanisms to then develop intervention suggestions to reduce this risk of injury and improve player welfare. Through my years of working with injured players, I also believe that the mental welfare of players is as essential as the physical welfare as there can’t be one without the other.

Contact Kilian Bibby:  @KilianBibby

Prof Ian Kenny is an Associate Professor in Biomechanics in the Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences at the University of Limerick. Prof Kenny is co-Principal Investigator for IRIS and co-director of the Sport and Human Performance Research Centre. Prof Kenny’s research interests include the biomechanics of sports injury and sports medicine, effects of equipment parameters on the golf swing, and musculoskeletal modelling and computer simulation of movement.

Contact Prof Kenny: @IanCKenny  Researchgate   

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