Author Topic: Dementia and rugby  (Read 554 times)

Wowbagger

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Dementia and rugby
« on: December 08, 2020, 05:57:42 pm »
https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2020/dec/08/steve-thompson-former-rugby-union-players-dementia-landmark-legal-case

Quote
Thompson, 42, said he cannot remember winning the World Cup, would not want his own children to play the game “the way it is at the moment” and that he regrets ever taking it up himself.

That is so desperately sad, but this is an issue which, I think, has been played down, or at least, treated as less significant than it is.
Eating's a serious business. Don't bollocks around wagging your tail.

Re: Dementia and rugby
« Reply #1 on: December 09, 2020, 08:40:59 am »
There's a whole series:
https://www.theguardian.com/sport/series/rugby-union-and-dementia---a-special-report

It's heartbreaking and scary - that whole generation who played as rugby turned pro were so damaged, and it's not a huge amount better now.
The NFL has been doing stuff about this for years and years (and they have a whole lot more money with which to pay compensation), but rugby (and eventually football) are going to have to come to terms with what the sport can do to your brain. They need to take a long hard look and make a lot of changes quickly. Who knows - they might even make the game more entertaining again (obv that has to come massively behind improving player safety in the priority list).
I played amateur American Football for 10 years - despite the fact I avoided any concussions, knowing what I know now I would not do it again.

ElyDave

  • Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society member 263583
Re: Dementia and rugby
« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2020, 08:58:15 am »
I'm almost certain I have had concussions due to playing rugby, when you look back at the symptoms. One of the reasons I stopped playing and took up refereeing was despite the adage that rugby has a place for everyone no matter your size, I was not finding that true in reality.  I was playing as inside center at 1.75m and 75kg and finding myself dwarfed. I was almost better off playing as a highly mobile back-row player in managing the impact.

The fact that players and coaches now refer to "dominating the collisions" rather than making tackles tells you everything.  It's American football without armour and reliant on staged plays in a short space of the pitch to repeatedly hammer the defence before the gaps open from fatigue or injury.  The Jonny May stroke of individual brilliance is getting pushed out of the game, despite what the coaches say they want to be doing
“Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him.” –Charles Dickens

citoyen

  • Occasionally rides a bike
Re: Dementia and rugby
« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2020, 10:02:11 am »
I'm pretty certain I had at least a couple of concussions playing rugby at school. There was one incident where my own teammate rammed my face with his head after we tried to tackle the same player who ducked out of the way (my teammate in an offside position, by the way!). I completely blacked out for several seconds - which doesn't sound like much but is several seconds too long. Fortunately, on that occasion, my game was ended due to the blood pouring from my flattened nose, but there have been other occasions where I just played on.

Same when my son was playing for our local club, which fills me with horror when I think back to it. They were taking part in a local tournament, with several mini games over the course of a single day. In one game, he got a knock and was clearly dazed enough to require sitting out the rest of the game, but the coach let him play the next game. I know now I should have refused to allow that, and indeed should have just taken him straight to hospital.

There was another occasion when he got tip-tackled and landed vertically on his head.

Kind of glad he doesn't play rugby any more.

Sad to see what has become of players like Thompson and Popham, but the most upsetting aspect is that it's entirely unsurprising with the benefit of hindsight.
"The future's all yours, you lousy bicycles."

T42

  • *** fool in a hurry
Re: Dementia and rugby
« Reply #4 on: December 09, 2020, 10:32:56 am »
The fact that players and coaches now refer to "dominating the collisions" rather than making tackles tells you everything.  It's American football without armour and reliant on staged plays in a short space of the pitch to repeatedly hammer the defence before the gaps open from fatigue or injury.  The Jonny May stroke of individual brilliance is getting pushed out of the game, despite what the coaches say they want to be doing

Armour doesn't seem to make much difference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_NFL_players_with_chronic_traumatic_encephalopathy.

Thompson's experience is heartbreaking.  I used to play at school but being short-sighted had trouble following the ball so I switched to cross-country running. Glad of that now.
I've dusted all those old bottles and set them up straight.

citoyen

  • Occasionally rides a bike
Re: Dementia and rugby
« Reply #5 on: December 09, 2020, 11:00:23 am »
Armour doesn't seem to make much difference

It can actually make matters worse, since players feel they can make harder hits.

Likewise for boxing gloves - you can punch someone harder if it's not going to damage your own hand so badly.
"The future's all yours, you lousy bicycles."

Re: Dementia and rugby
« Reply #6 on: December 09, 2020, 11:07:16 am »
As well as the big hits Armour makes it easier to survive the repeated sub concussive blows without sustaining injuries that will take you off the field.  So in many ways, it just makes things worse wrt CTE (especially for linemen/linebackers/running backs who typically "butt heads" every play). No lids in practise makes a huge difference to how you block/shed. It sounds like Pophan and Thompson practised how they played - if they did that it's amazing that everyone in those squads isn't affected (maybe they are).
I had my nose broken in practise one time when a swinging arm came through my face cage (open receiver style one). If I had a different style cage, I would have barely registered the impact. And that's just playing university level here. I don't think I was ever knocked out or properly dazed (except for an elbow when playing regular football). We were aware of concussion risk back in 2000, and if you were knocked out you didn't play any further part in the game (we didn't know anything about CTE though).

mattc

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Re: Dementia and rugby
« Reply #7 on: December 09, 2020, 11:43:34 am »
There's a whole series:
https://www.theguardian.com/sport/series/rugby-union-and-dementia---a-special-report

It's heartbreaking and scary - that whole generation who played as rugby turned pro were so damaged, and it's not a huge amount better now.
The NFL has been doing stuff about this for years and years (and they have a whole lot more money with which to pay compensation), but rugby (and eventually football) are going to have to come to terms with what the sport can do to your brain. They need to take a long hard look and make a lot of changes quickly. Who knows - they might even make the game more entertaining again (obv that has to come massively behind improving player safety in the priority list).
I played amateur American Football for 10 years - despite the fact I avoided any concussions, knowing what I know now I would not do it again.
I have never seriously played with funny-shaped balls (wrong sort of school old chap!):
- What changes can they make?
- Have the recent crackdowns on high tackles made much difference?
Has never ridden RAAM
---------
No.11  Because of the great host of those who dislike the least appearance of "swank " when they travel the roads and lanes. - From Kuklos' 39 Articles

Re: Dementia and rugby
« Reply #8 on: December 09, 2020, 02:07:42 pm »
The stuff these former players are asking for seems like a good start (DTI brain scans at the start of each season being a significant one).
Apologies for the Mail link - couldn't find the list of 15 elsewhere: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/rugbyunion/article-9032185/The-15-commandments-demanded-former-players-taking-legal-action-rugby-done.html
Banning full contact for kids would be a good idea (maybe they could spend the time on ball skills instead). I think the high tackle stuff has made a small difference (Ross Tucker was one of the key movers in that if you want to find out more), but so much of the collision aspect is at the breakdown and I don't know how far you can go with that before it's league! It used to be the case that rugby was a contact sport when American Football was a collision sport, but rugby is all about the collision now as well.
I was lucky - I grew up in S Wales so rugby was all my school cared about, but I was too small and skinny so they quickly decided I wasn't built for it and let me go play football instead. :)

Edit -The focus on lower tackles is about concussion reduction.  That's a significant and worthy change, but what we've learned about CTE is that repeated sub concussive impacts can cause similar long term damage. If you measure the forces involved, you probably find that every single tackle (or set in the scrum or clear-out in a ruck) is a tiny sub concussive impact. They have done some interesting work using accelerometers inside helmets in American Football (college level), and apparently the Ospreys are putting the same sort of tech into gum shields.

citoyen

  • Occasionally rides a bike
Re: Dementia and rugby
« Reply #9 on: December 09, 2020, 02:15:07 pm »
Banning full contact for kids would be a good idea (maybe they could spend the time on ball skills instead).

That would be a real benefit. What I've seen of coaching at age-group level suggests they don't get taught a lot of the more technical aspects very well. My personal experience of playing at school is that you're mostly just thrown on the pitch and told to get on with it.

The other major one would be to abandon age groups altogether and play kids in size groups instead, so you prevent some of the horrific physical mismatches I've witnessed. Kids develop physically at very different rates, after all. (I think they already do this in New Zealand, but not entirely sure.)

Don't know how you could translate that to senior level without, as you say, turning the game into League. But maybe that is ultimately the only option.
"The future's all yours, you lousy bicycles."

Re: Dementia and rugby
« Reply #10 on: December 09, 2020, 02:26:57 pm »
They use weight limits in NZ to group players, rather than ages.
As a kid, I was dumped on a pitch at 11 and told to get on with it.  and then I was penalised for chipping it over the line of players in front of me and catching it - we weren't allowed to kick it! My best mate broke his femur in his first PE lesson playing rugby and missed the rest of the term!

At the elite level, fewer players might help. Maybe the future is sevens? :)

citoyen

  • Occasionally rides a bike
Re: Dementia and rugby
« Reply #11 on: December 09, 2020, 03:49:06 pm »
They use weight limits in NZ to group players, rather than ages.

Yes, that's what I was thinking of. Thanks for confirming!
"The future's all yours, you lousy bicycles."

ElyDave

  • Royal and Ancient Polar Bear Society member 263583
Re: Dementia and rugby
« Reply #12 on: December 09, 2020, 04:12:30 pm »
There's a whole series:
https://www.theguardian.com/sport/series/rugby-union-and-dementia---a-special-report

It's heartbreaking and scary - that whole generation who played as rugby turned pro were so damaged, and it's not a huge amount better now.
The NFL has been doing stuff about this for years and years (and they have a whole lot more money with which to pay compensation), but rugby (and eventually football) are going to have to come to terms with what the sport can do to your brain. They need to take a long hard look and make a lot of changes quickly. Who knows - they might even make the game more entertaining again (obv that has to come massively behind improving player safety in the priority list).
I played amateur American Football for 10 years - despite the fact I avoided any concussions, knowing what I know now I would not do it again.
I have never seriously played with funny-shaped balls (wrong sort of school old chap!):
- What changes can they make?
- Have the recent crackdowns on high tackles made much difference?

Probably yes in case of those "accidental" or maybe not, catastrophic injuries, but the impact is still there in ruck/maul;/scrum - Note Thomson = front row so getting it all. Then you have the tackles that are legal, but just get screwed up somehow - technique is massively important
“Procrastination is the thief of time, collar him.” –Charles Dickens

mattc

  • n.b. have grown beard since photo taken
    • Didcot Audaxes
Re: Dementia and rugby
« Reply #13 on: December 10, 2020, 10:41:38 am »
So the Eton Wall Game is unlikely to be the next big thing? Shame ...
Has never ridden RAAM
---------
No.11  Because of the great host of those who dislike the least appearance of "swank " when they travel the roads and lanes. - From Kuklos' 39 Articles

T42

  • *** fool in a hurry
Re: Dementia and rugby
« Reply #14 on: December 10, 2020, 10:49:41 am »
I've dusted all those old bottles and set them up straight.