accessibility & help

Cheese rolling hazards

Can you get concussion from a cheese roll? Yes - if it's the centuries-old custom of cheese rolling that thrives even in our supposedly risk-averse age. What are the actual risks at community events like this and how do we manage them?

Using compelling photographs of a recent event, young people can identify risks, categorise likely injuries and discuss first aid treatment. They also get to look at safety planning for events. 

Learning objectives

By the end of this activity young people will be able to:

  • Assess the risks involved in a community event and decide whether they would participate.
  • Decide which suggested developments might increase safety at an event.

At your own risk

Show young people the photograph. Ask what the people are doing. You could ask why they are doing it, but don't press too hard for an answer – the origin has never been fully explained.

Women chasing after cheese at the annual coopers hill cheeserolling© Info

The photograph was taken in late May in Gloucestershire at the annual Cheese Rolling competition. The man in the white top hat is the cheese roller. He rolls a large double Gloucester like a wheel down the hill, to be chased by participants. The hill is very steep - 45 degrees - in parts. The cheese is said to reach speeds of 70 mph. People try to keep up with it.

Invite first reactions. Judging by the faces of those pictured, was it fun? What would the atmosphere be like? Would young people like to join in, as participants or spectators?

Gloucestershire County Council owns the land the competition is held on, and has strong views on the event. Read out extracts from the council's warning poster: 

  • Cheese rolling is a dangerous activity for both participants and spectators. 
  • The cheese roll is not managed. You are strongly advised not to attend.
  • It is especially unsuitable for children.
  • You attend entirely at your own risk.

Think about this advice. Does it change anyone's view? What might the council mean by ‘dangerous activity’? What hazards might there be? What injuries might someone sustain? Why might it be ‘especially unsuitable for children’?

Look at the second photograph for inspiration. Imagine being one of those participants. Or being a spectator hit by one.

Three men tumble after the Double Gloucester cheese as it hurtles down Coopers Hill in Gloucestershire in the annual Cheese Rolling competition© Info

Draw up a list of possible injuries. It may look a bit like this:

  • head injury
  • broken limbs
  • sprains
  • cuts and grazes
  • unresponsive and breathing

Then group the injuries into categories:

  1. Those you can treat yourself or will get better on their own. 

  2. Those you should seek medical advice on.

  3. Those that are a medical emergency, for which you should dial 999. 

You might want to distinguish between a cut which is bleeding heavily and a minor cut which isn’t. 

Talk about the difference between a broken bone and a sprain. Both can cause pain, swelling, bruising and difficulty moving. With a break, the bone may look misshapen or have an open wound.

If a bone is broken, the first aid advice is not to move it unnecessarily. Imagine someone on that hill has a broken ankle. It's a forty minute walk over the fields. How might you help? Would you have taken your mobile phone on the run? Could you call 999 for an ambulance?

The enthusiasts who organise the event state: "there is a lot of background work… to ensure the safety of the event. Hours are spent… clearing the hill of obstructions, stones and general debris, erecting spectator control orange fencing." Does this change young people's opinions?

The Health and Safety Executive noted that the organisers were very familiar with planning the event. The following two safety measures were mentioned. Can young people identify the reason for them?

  • Switching the start time to midday rather than mid-afternoon. 
  • Arranging for volunteers from the local rugby team to stand at the bottom of the hill.


  • The timing switch was to reduce the risk of people getting drunk, spending hours in the pub beforehand.
  • The rugby team ‘tackles’ the runners, ensuring a safe landing for those who need help to stop at the bottom of the hill.

Click the links to see more first aid teaching resources, for both primary and secondary ages.

Kettle in the fridge

Chris Anderson has won two of the cheese rolling competitions this year, adding to his total of 15 won over 11 years. Has he ever been injured? 

"The second year I won it, I wasn't knocked out but I took a big bang to the head. I had concussion. And the next day at work I put the kettle in the fridge." 

Role play an imagined conversation between a concussed Chris and his supervisor at work. How might you tell someone they are acting confused and should seek medical advice immediately? How might Chris have reacted? 

Growing event

Cheese rolling has changed over the years. It was once a small community event. More recently, partly because of YouTube coverage, it attracts visitors from all over the world. How does the local community cope with thousands of visitors? What amenities do they need that local people wouldn't?

Would the following proposals solve problems or add to them? If the young people were organising next year's event, would they include them?

  • Toilets on site.
  • A beer tent.
  • An entrance fee.
  • A marked meeting or help point.

Local event planning

Think of a community event happening locally this summer. Try to find out about the organisation and planning. Who is involved? Is there police input? What about fire and rescue, first aid, ambulance and security controls? What training is there for marshals?

Look at the information made available for visitors - perhaps on the website for a previous year's event. What details are there? How would you describe the safety arrangements?

Does thinking about event planning change how young people might approach events? Do they normally consider their safety, or potential risks, before attending events?


This resource was written by PJ White and published in June 2015.


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