JPR: Rugby must "wake up" to injuries
October 27, 2010
Lions legend JPR Williams believes rugby must acknowledge its injury problems © Getty Images
JPR Williams has called on those governing rugby to "wake up" to the injury problems he believes are harming players.
The former British & Irish Lions and Wales fullback is a consultant surgeon and is so concerned with the rate of injuries in the game that he is launching a research partnership with the University of Glamorgan in South Wales to quantify and address the problem. A major conference on rugby injuries is taking place on October 28.
And while he acknowledges the sport must maintain its physical elements, Williams believes the pace of the professional game is making life dangerous for players who must be protected. Williams is not the first to call for a review of injuries - Scotland and Lions doctor James Robson warned that the rate on the 2009 tour of South Africa was above what could be considered normal.
"I was never averse to putting in big tackles and enjoying the more physical aspects of the game," Williams said. "I was on the receiving end plenty of times but the modern game has gone a big step further. It's more physical. Players train more, they are bigger, stronger and tackle harder.
"With the tension between clubs, regions and countries, today's players play more often and at higher intensity than ever before. They're being subjected to a vast increase in training by the fitness coaches, to the extent that many injuries now sustained in training as are from overuse. These injuries are often career-ending. It's time for the game to wake up and get to grips with the problem."
Four new academic research fellowships, a partnership between JPR Williams and the university, are being announced, heralding the first comprehensive medical research in Wales into the injuries suffered by rugby players, and how they can be prevented.
As well as a database of rugby injuries in Wales, research will include treatments for brain, spine, shoulder and joint injuries, as well as how oxygen chambers can help players train and recover. Professor Damian Bailey, a University of Glamorgan specialist in brain injury and oxygen deprivation, will supervise key elements of the research.
"There is a real need to document, formalise and analyse the incidence and severity of injuries suffered by elite rugby players," Professor Bailey said. "We will be investigating possible parallels, for example, between the frequent collisions in the modern game and the long term effects of the repeated injuries suffered by professional boxers over a career."
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