A Victorian academic has been awarded for work researching GLBT sports participation in the state.

Victoria University researcher Caroline Symons has this week taken home the VicHealth Professor David Hill Award for Knowledge and Translation for undertaking research — the first of its kind — to look at factors preventing GLBT people taking up sport.

The research, launched this year at the height of controversial comments by former AFL footballer Jason Akermanis that gay footballers should stay in the closet, found many GLBT people avoid playing sport because of their sexuality or gender identity.

The Come Out to Play research found more than 45 percent of participants were not ‘out’ in mainstream sports and many avoided participating in team games for fear of harassment.

The findings showed male respondents were less likely to play team sports than women and more likely to be out in individual rather than team sports.

Twenty-six percent of male participants and almost 10 percent of female participants said there were sports they would like to play but did not because of their sexuality.

Overall, 41.5 percent of respondents (mostly female) reported they had experienced verbal homophobic harassment at some time during involvement with sport and around 87 percent said that experience had affected them “in some way”.

More than 58 percent of transgender participants said there were sports they did not play because of their gender identity and trans respondents reported experiencing the most sexism in sport.

The research was funded by VicHealth, Victoria University and the Asia Pacific Outgames Legacy Fund.

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