Opening a new referral route to the Alzheimer’s Society for former players diagnosed with dementia will be “critical”, according to the Rugby Players’ Association.
The Society announced on Friday that partnerships have been established with the RPA, the Welsh RPA, the Professional Cricketers’ Association and the League Managers’ Association in football, providing these organizations with a permanent way to refer any past and present player or manager who been diagnosed with dementia or are caring for a loved one.
The intention is to make the process of obtaining dedicated dementia support as easy and fast as possible for current and former professionals.
Members will benefit from personalized advice and practical and emotional support from the Society’s frontline experts to help them live well with their condition and better prepare for the future.
RPA’s Director of Player Welfare Richard Bryan said news of diagnoses of dementia praecox for several former professionals, including England’s 2003 World Cup-winning prostitute Steve Thompson, had raised concerns from his colleagues. and what significant changes have been made since then. The RPA offering.
“We are looking at four different areas – education, support for former players, protection of current players and research as well,” he told the PA news agency.
“As part of that planning, we were looking to see what was out there, what organizations there are that we need to partner with, because I think what was apparent back then, 18 months ago, was that it was actually not easy to find specific information. for ex-athletes on the topic of dementia and the effects of head injuries.
“So it’s about trying to find specific paths for old and current players. We were aware of the Sport United Against Dementia (campaign) and the LMA’s existing relationship with the Alzheimer’s Society and so we were introduced to the Society. The key for us was, where can we flag our members for information, support, on a topic that is obviously of concern to them?
“Supporting our former players is absolutely critical and having that path with the Alzheimer’s Society is critical and we look forward to that relationship developing.
“Those avenues are developing and it’s about getting that specific information, and that experience and personalized knowledge of the health and social care system, for past and current players.”
The Alzheimer’s Society referral service has already been communicated to RPA members, and will continue to be, and is alongside access to the Advanced BRAIN Health Clinic at the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health (ISEH) in central London. This service, funded by Rugby Football Union and Premiership Rugby, was opened to retired elite male and female players aged between 30 and 55 last November.
Bryan said there have been 47 referrals to the clinic so far and that there was potential for cross-referencing the clinic to the Alzheimer’s Society in the future.
It was a significant week in protecting brain health in elite rugby as well, with World Rugby introducing new concussion protocols.
Players will face a minimum suspension period of 12 days, with the vast majority of players diagnosed with concussion now set to miss their next match.
Bryan described the new protocols as a “big step forward” and added, “Our RPA Players Council, which has our elected representatives, was really influential in these changes.
“We felt that a review was necessary and it was a chance for our player representatives to have their say. Seeing these changes that reflect the thoughts of our player representatives is an important change and something we would love to welcome.
“One thing that our player representatives were very strong on was players who suffered a category one concussion – what World Rugby would call an obvious on-field concussion – which those players should not be able to return within a week.”
Bryan said the RPA board of players is also pushing for guidelines on contact training and controlled contact training to become mandatory limits, and he welcomed the introduction of integrated mouthguards into the English elite game next season.
“This has the potential to change the game in terms of data and greater understanding of the forces, the contact that players are making in both a training environment and a game environment,” added Bryan.
“Our goals are to reduce exposure to head impacts of any kind.”