Rugby players carry injuries into retirement

A survey has shown that over 50 per cent have suffered health consequences


The Irish Rugby Union Players Association (Irupa) have cautioned about drawing specific conclusions from an independent survey carried out that showed a large proportion of former professional rugby players continue to have issues with injury years after their careers have finished.

Conducted by a UK company MRM Solutions on behalf of Irupa, the survey of 79 past professional players showed that three in five said that they “sustained an injury which impacted their life”.

That represents 60 per cent of those surveyed. In addition just over 50 per cent of the former players said that they suffered “health consequences as a result of their playing career”.

The survey did not publish details of what constituted health consequences nor did it specify the severity of the injuries from which many of the players continue to suffer.

“Of course we are concerned with it and that’s why we continue to keep in contact with former players,” said Simon Keogh, a Heineken Cup winner with Leinster and Irupa’s operations manager and head of legal affairs.

Anonymous survey
“The survey was carried out anonymously so that players could answer questions honestly but we don’t have details on the nature of the injuries. The severity of the injuries is not stated. But we have already taken steps by opening up our services to our members. We’ve been pro-active and we have set up the past player alumni in November 2013.

“If they are suffering we can get them help in our various programs and also try to ensure that the best possible practices are in place.”

As the severity of the injuries is not stated few conclusions can be drawn as to what degree players lives have been affected. However if half say that they have suffered “health consequences” whether that is physical, mental or both the reasonable assumption is that their issues resulting from their playing careers are serious enough. In addition the numbers seems extremely high.

“As I’ve said of course we are concerned about the welfare of the players but the results need to be taken in context,” added Keogh. “The survey didn’t go into the details of the injuries.”

“The reason for this survey was to find out how past players were doing and to open up the alumni and that’s how we keep in contact with past players. The age range for the survey was from 1995, the professional era, until recently so some of the players could be in their 50s.”

There is currently a project taking place in UCD, which is not yet complete, that is investigating the impact of scrums on the bodies of players. Global Positioning Systems in player’s shirts, among other things provide data, which has already shown that the G-forces players exert on each other are enormous and not decreasing but probably getting higher.

In the same survey five per cent of the 79 former players questioned said that their reason for retiring from the game was because their body had “simply had enough”.

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