TO THE WORLD OF RUGBY… Concussion, Dementia, Depression and Suicide are some of the deadly complex matters that need to be addressed in the next 12 months!

THE RUGBY WORLD IS FACING IN THE NEXT 12-24 MONTHS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE SINCE ITS INCEPTION IN THE 1860’S. CONCUSSION-DEMENTIA-CTE-DEPRESSION-PARKINSON’S-ALZHEIMER’S and SUICIDE ARE INTIMATELY LINKED (Not always!) AS BY-PRODUCTS OF CHASING RUGBY GLORY (Players & Coaches) AND PERPETUITY (Directors, Delegates and Administrators). ETR. 29/12/2021 (I take 100% ownership of this statement)

The ISSF and GRU (Global Rugby University) Mission is… to advocate for and generate Educational Programs, Promote General Awareness, and deliver strategies and guidelines destined to improve SPORTS INJURIES PREVENTION, and HEALTH & WELLBEING PRESERVATION.

Dear Sportspeople, Readership and Families of Injured Athletes,

Only two days and a few hours to farewell another year. For some people, 2021 has not ended soon enough. I am fortunately on the other side of the coin, it certainly has not been easy but I have thrived on the challenges in front of me and on the road ahead. I also feel blessed and well prepared, ready for a big decade ahead. HOW? To me very simply, I have been able to bring together experiences and studies of the last 50 years, into a single cause, the ISSF|GRU initiatives to assist athletes and their families. More details are below…

Nevertheless, EI (Emotional Intelligence) helps us in understanding many other people’s plight. ‘The fight’ of our life (2020-2021) has been on many fronts. The COVID-19 pandemic (and its variants) have been one of the main contributors. Survival has become even more complex, not just the fittest, and the smartest, but the most positive and mentally flexible has more/better chances of success (whatever this is for each of us!). Have said back in May 2020 that ‘nimbleness’ and ‘adaptability’ are today ‘must-haves’. Nevertheless, many athletes have been confronting realities such as brain damage due to repeated concussions during their careers. Impossible to diagnose, or to foresee the damages that have historically occurred inside your skull, yet the symptoms are like an invisible enemy that creeps up the back door of your very existence. So, 20 or 30 years later… the ‘phantom’ has been waiting in the shadows of retirement.

There is a class action taken on by 150+ rugby union and rugby league players who feel sufficiently disadvantaged by these realities. Administrators are all but acknowledging the prior absence of Duty of Care. Many of those in positions of responsibility think, ‘IT WAS OK’. Nonetheless, several pieces of good evidence are telling us today; it was far from OK. Doctors and Neurologists have raised the yellow and red flags many years ago, some even before 1995, but??

Rylands Law (UK) has been engaged by a large group of affected athletes, this ominous task to bring proceeding before the Law is quite something. Like in sports, or competitive pursuits, when you decide to PLAY ON… before you start airing out grievances and shreds of evidence, you must internalise the chances of winning, losing, or drawing! Every individual involved, no matter the colour of their playing ‘jumper’ will play ‘hard’ (sometimes fair, others not). Everyone has families, whether parents, siblings, partners, children who are and have been already affected by unwanted symptoms and disastrous physical, psychological, and emotional consequences.

ALL ADULTS, at any stage of life, but particularly active athletes, who lose mobility, lose confidence and self-esteem due to the inability to ‘perform’ their disciplines becomes a caged-up suffering animal, not tamed, not wild, but experiencing something they never prepared for. Fear is ne of the worst companions of an injured person, soon affective disorders arrive (depression, bipolar, schizophrenia, melancholia, etc.) are some side-effects of ‘accidents’ caused by a simple collision or concussion.

There may also be other aggravating and contributing factors, of course, our body, mind and soul are not singular, simplistic and disconnected computers. However, World Rugby (and the contracted scientists) are shifting responsibilities by saying that lifestyle is more conducive to degenerate our brains (yes, alcohol, tobacco, drugs, etc.) Whatddahff? – I would like to reverse this hypothesis and ask these incredibly ‘clever’ fellows running World Rugby… Has it ever occurred that many athletes might be ‘medicating’ themselves to cope with the damages suffered 5, 10, 20 or 40 years ago?

Now, to balance a bit these different opinions and unique angles of observation, let’s look at other hypothetical cases and some questions for the readership, the administrators, and the Lawyers also.

SOME HYPOTHETICALS.

Historic comparisons that may or may not apply to you. Do you remember… a) When you were five? Running flat out, chased by your brother, and suddenly… the living room table stopped you on your tracks, or b) When you were ten, coming downhill screaming on your bike and landed head-on against that fence? Or… c) Your several falls off the galloping horse? – NOW, those accidents above mentioned do not diminish anyone’s responsibility. But it certainly has created a potential for cumulative lesions in your brain.

NOW, playing a 95% collision game will not mitigate the inherent risks. In the contrary, rugby today has a big fight on their hands trying to convince not only parents but grandparents about the ‘beauties’ of playing it at an early age!!! – When the human damages get this big, this hard, and this uncontrolled, we must shoot to the top. World Rugby has been sitting on a big pile of money for a long time, for 50 years at least. Nonetheless, since 1991 (2nd RWC) the profits have become exponential.

Next stages, from 1995 to 2019, we keep adding noughts (not crosses) to those balance sheets, TV, some players, and some coaches’ contracts. However, the minnows, the Pacific Islands and other second-tier countries do not even smell these figures!World Rugby badly needs all these small ‘actors’ to fill up the stage of their quadrennial RWC grand production.

Q1: Why WR did not accept the advice of independent neurologists, in the early 2000s and before?

Q2: Why WR did not follow up on people badly hurt?

Q3: Why WR did bot budget for unforeseeable or contingencies?

Q4: Does WR have a decent Occupational Health & Safety Policy?

Q5: Doesn’t WR have (or did before) adequate insurance to cover contingencies?

Q6: Why WR is so reluctant to CHANGE THE LAWS to make rugby safer and more entertaining? (And by the way, more profitable?)

FOR YOUR INFORMATION, the disappearance of a proper RUCK, the playing the ball on the ground, the dismantling of the SCRUM, the incessant stoppages and referees’ lectures, are a combined business plot between greedy TV executives, soon Joint Venture Capitalists, inept and arrogant administrators, poorly informed referees, and ambitious inventive coaches seeking ‘perpetuity’. One hell of a trough… Let’s not start with Australian Rugby the administration minnow!

A good overhaul of The Lawbook by professional Lawmakers, without affecting the principles and spirit of the game, is the only solution to this conundrum. What has been done so far by WR are cosmetic changes, window dressing and TV executives pleasing.

There are so many whys’ the rugby family is asking World Rugby today… Let’s hope and work towards a much better 2022 with truly ‘fair’ sportsmanship, respect, and responsibility!

Thanking you most sincerely, for following and encouraging me with my streams-of-consciousness postings. And wishing you all a wonderful and plentiful 2022.

HEALTH, PEACE, and PROJECTS TO ALL.

Enrique TOPO Rodriguez

Sydney 29/12/2021.

The World’s best props of all times (pre-1995) – The Pilliers de Legende – Midi Olympique | Paris, November 2011

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