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Monday, December 12, 2005


Clubs risk meltdown unless players' health takes priority

Thomas Castaign├Ęde
December 2005
Source: The Guardian

It's been a chilling week to be a professional rugby player, with the retirements through long-term injuries of my team-mate Alex Sanderson and Worcester's Ben Hinshelwood. They are worrying enough episodes, but there is a trend here, following the departures this season of Trevor Woodman and Phil Greening. More players are being forced out of the sport than before, and they are going at a younger age.

I came close to going where they have gone with an achilles injury a few years ago, so I've always felt the long-term price paid by rugby players is higher than it is for athletes in other sports, except perhaps boxing. We will all be ugly old men, with lots of bits that creak or don't work. Our wives need to be worried about what they will be looking at in a few years, or perhaps we should be worried about our wives.

The evolution of the game in recent years has accentuated this. We all do more and more weight-training so the strain on our bodies is ever greater, particularly on the tendons. We play more and more games so we have less rest. We are all bigger and stronger so the strain on tendons and muscles in those games is greater. There won't be many more George Gregans, heading towards 120 caps.

I'd be worried if my son wanted to be a professional rugby player. The emotions you feel as a player are immensely strong, as is the pleasure you get from being in a team, but to have a career in rugby you have to give up your studies relatively young. The number of players who really succeed is relatively small, and I'd say that in England there are perhaps five guys at the moment who will be able to live off the money they have made as players when the time comes to stop.

I don't feel that players are well looked after on occasion. There are good doctors and physios in the game, who feel free to stop players competing without being pushed by the coaching staff, but some coaches and team doctors are irresponsible in not always giving priority to their players' health, instead looking only for results.

There are times when players are asked to compete in spite of a minor injury, but then they pick up something serious a few weeks later. The workload placed on certain areas of the body - back, discs, knees, groin - are extraordinarily heavy and great care needs to be taken, but sometimes the medical back-up is prehistoric.

That's crazy, mainly for the health risks, but also because clubs are gambling with their biggest assets - the players. You don't buy a Ferrari, then hand it over to a cycle mechanic. Greater investment is needed in this area, and a limit on the number of matches we play must be applied seriously.

There are also factors that are unique to England and thus to the English game. In France workplace health legislation is more stringent. If you are working in a factory and you feel bad somewhere you get an MRI or a scan to check it out. That isn't done automatically here. The onus is more on the individual and so the tendency is to wait and see.

You see players with small hamstring tears that crop up again and again, with the extent of the problem never fully investigated. In England, too, there is a tendency to believe that you can push the body more, whereas in France guys will stop if anything hurts. The British way seems brave but discretion, where injury is concerned, is definitely the better part of valour.

There's nothing worse in a player's career than having to stop before you are ready to do so, but I said to Alex this week that while it's bad having to stop, at a certain stage you have to accept the risks your body is running. You can't weigh the chance of being in a wheelchair against 80 minutes of pleasure on a rugby pitch.

I've looked down the black hole that now faces Alex, Ben and the rest. It's a hell of a moment. You go from being in the spotlight to having nothing - no training, no matches. My injury was poorly diagnosed, but there are many things that surprise me in the way the game looks after the players and if action is not taken soon, we are heading for meltdown.

Mmmm, okay, nearly there. We'll get there eventually.
What cant the Dragons take the weather anymore  
Hell ras but it was close  
In racing parlance, I just beat you by a short head, OO!!

Keeps you inspired to keep trying ;-)
Oh, and whilst we were neck and neck, WPW was still in the stalls!  
ah i see you got it right...

ignore the mail on the way the :)
Dammit Ras

I went in and published your arti, only to discover you'd already managed.

But I've deleted it again in the meantime
ras.what profession are you in? you seem to hava alot of time on your hands...  
Ai jai jai, No comment on the Article, not one. Where is Stu "I only ask once" Cooper when you need him.


Nice post on OO thread about the Bulls chances next year. Just a question to you, why is it with all those structures, that the Bulls still look another team when coached by Bailey instead of Heynecke? I believe Heynecke makes a difference. A coach these days plays more the inpirational part than acctually coaching the guys. That's where Heynecke is head and Shoulders above the rest (Okay, maybe not Rassie).
What're you on about Aldo?

What article has no comment?

Why do you want Ig here?

I disagree about the differences. Whenever you have aleadership change you must expect some sort of continuity wobbles.

The mistake the Bulls made was to do this DURING the season, so the players had to get used to a sudden change in coaching styles mid season. Although there may be some hiccups, Mike Bailey wil become as good a coach as Heyneke in time.
I meant comments relating to the content of the article Davids. Ig's allways complaing when we do not stick to the article. It was a joke!  




Please note what this post is about and comment accordingly.

I am sick and tired of these posts that are not rugby related.

I only ask once.




The article makes for fearful reading...
Yes Davids, a lot better thanks. I feel at home now.  
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