Communicating Consent in Sport: A Typological Model of Athletes’ Consent Practices within Combat Sports

Alex Channon, Christopher Matthews

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper provides a systematic attempt to empirically describe the ways in which athletes’ consent to take part in sport is socially constructed, communicated, and understood by others. Due to a notable lack of prior research on this topic, we draw on insights from sex research to theorise consent as a communicative social practice, specifically applying this notion to interpreting the world of competitive combat sports. To do so, we combine data from across numerous studies using the method of concatenated exploration, producing a post-hoc, longitudinal, cross-contextual qualitative analysis of the ways in which consent is practiced in such settings. We then outline a four-point typology of how consent is performed, including the following categories: overt communication; subtle communication; assumed consent; and deferred consent. We conclude by arguing that the apparent predominance of subtle, assumed and deferred consent presents some worrying implications for athletes’ freedom, potentially undermining the morally transformative potential of consent within these ostensibly ‘violent’, often injurious sports contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)899-917
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Review for the Sociology of Sport
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 6 Oct 2021


  • Consent
  • Combat Sports
  • Martial Arts
  • Violence
  • Injury
  • Risk
  • combat sports
  • martial arts
  • risk
  • injury
  • consent
  • violence


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