Current and former players showing signs of premature dementia after repeated shocks to the head have been told by World Rugby and several leading independent experts that 11 other factors, including depression, excessive alcohol consumption or poor diet , could explain the deterioration of their brain health.
World Rugby, in collaboration with the International Association of Rugby Players, has launched a global brain health education campaign in response to growing concerns over long-term player well-being that have sparked legal action against the world governing body, the Rugby Football Union and the Welsh. Rugby Federation.
However, even the simplest suggestion from the game’s governing body that the symptoms of dementia could stem from players’ lifestyle choices rather than the impacts experienced during matches or practices will upset those who insist that the rugby is the root cause of their problems. The complication is that chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease for which the only known cause is repeated blows to the head, can only be fully confirmed with an autopsy.
Aimed at professional players past and present, the new campaign was launched at the World Rugby Medical Commission conference in London. The global governing body has said it wants to “educate and support” current and former elite players concerned about their well-being and offer free access to brain health clinics where expert consultations, clinical assessment and counseling. tips can be viewed.
A video is also out in which experts describe 12 modifiable risk factors for dementia, only one being brain injury sustained while playing. These include lack of physical activity, lack of social contact, depression, loneliness, heart disease, and other “lifestyle” choices such as smoking, obesity, or binge drinking. ‘alcohol.
According to Professor Craig Ritchie, president of Aging Psychiatry at the University of Edinburgh, broader medical issues need to be considered. âLong-term cognitive health is extremely complex – and dementia doesn’t necessarily have to be the result of just one factor,â he said. âIt’s important for those involved in gambling to understand that by focusing on good brain health, it is possible to reduce the risk of developing dementia and other degenerative brain diseases.
âRugby players, past and present, can take action, such as maintaining good health and fitness and dealing with stress, anxiety and depression to help reduce certain risk factors, while the sport continues to prioritize reducing the risk of head impact for players at all levels. and the stages of the game.
Another leading expert, Professor Willie Stewart, consultant neuropathologist at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow, supports the initiative. âThis is extremely important work for World Rugby which will undoubtedly benefit the world game and sport in general. While progress is being made in reducing risk to current and future players through changes in training and gameplay, it is important that the brain health of former players is not overlooked. This initiative highlights the importance of our brain health and the steps we can all take to try to reduce our risk of dementia.
Former England hooker Steve Thompson, 33-cap Wales flanker Alix Popham and Carl Hayman, who represented the All Blacks on prop between 2001-07, are among a group of former players who have joined the lawsuit described last year as a “ticking timebomb” by Richard Boardman of Rylands Law, who represents the players.
However, World Rugby President Sir Bill Beaumont said the game was doing everything it could “to protect our players” and had “consistently acted on the evolving science and evidence” to help to the well-being of the players. âWe care deeply about every member of our rugby family,â he said. âAs a former player myself, I understand that some players may be concerned about their brain health. We must, and we must, place these actors at the heart of our social protection plans. Good brain health is much bigger than what happens on the pitch, and we have more control over it than you might think.
âAt the same time, we won’t stand still, evolving our game to make sure it best protects those who play it. By providing accessible video resources and high quality care and support through the establishment of brain health clinics around the world, we can better educate our rugby family members on what can be a complex and intimidating subject. . “