Irish players pressurised to play injured
January 8, 2011
40% of Irish rugby players have felt pressurised into playing hurt © Getty Images
A survey commissioned by the Irish Rugby Union Players Association (IRUPA) has found that 40% of players have felt pressurised into playing while injured.
Of the 150 or so players on international, provincial or development contracts, 75% responded to the survey in which they were polled on issues regarding their health, a hot topic in Irish rugby since the enforced retirements of Leinster hookers John Fogarty and Bernard Jackman and their subsequent revelations about playing while injured.
Nearly one in four players expressed unhappiness with a surgeon or specialist they had been referred to, with the added feeling that the leading players were given preferential treatment. Although a degree of dissatisfaction was to be expected, some of the responses alarmed the IRUPA chief executive Niall Woods.
"The most striking area where there were problems, which I had been receiving calls on anecdotally throughout last season was the medical area, and the drop in standard of care that the players felt there had been," the former Ireland international told The Irish TImes.
"What I had been hearing anecdotally from players calling me was that players were getting pressured to play while injured. Whilst on the one hand players will always play with some form of injury, it was more [a case of] serious injury, and the most worrying part was who was responsible for the pressure being put on them to play."
The survey found that most of the pressure being applied came from coaches, but 28% of players found the pressure came from the medical team - a statistic Woods described as "worrying".
"That says to us that the primary care of the player, in this case the patient, wasn't being catered for," he said. "So the alarm bells were ringing when we were looking at those stats."
Of the players surveyed, 19.1% said they had been pressurised to stay on the field despite suffering from concussion.
"When you get a concussion you don't know where you are, which is why I think the onus should be on an independent medical person on the pitch, not the team doctor, so that there is no undue pressure coming from coaches.
"I've seen the pressures myself from playing, and it's nine years since I played, and I hear it on a regular basis in Ireland and the UK. There was also a real macho thing with one coach, who simply didn't want any player in the physio's room. That it was a sign of weakness, so you felt like you should be out training even with injuries, and that's just the way the sport is. In American Football there's probably the same attitude, and maybe 10 times worse."
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