New research into stresses of SA professional rugby and retirement

2014-10-07 00:00

CAPE TOWN — The South African rugby community is backing ground-breaking new research that might one day help players cope with the stresses and emotional pressure of a professional rugby career.

The South African Rugby Players’ Association (Sarpa) and South African Rugby Legends’ Association (Sarla), in collaboration with the Research Unit for Exercise Science and Sports Medicine (University of Cape Town), and backed by the South African Rugby Union (Saru), have written to more than 500 former players appealing for their help in new research.

The idea is to get a better understanding of the consequences of the physical and mental demands faced by players during their careers, and what effect that has on their health and wellness following retirement.

“Professional rugby is relatively new and we are now beginning to see the impact on former players who have dedicated a decade or more of their lives to the sport and then have to cope with the post-career stresses without any kind of road map or role models,” said Stefan Terblanche, CEO of Sarla.

“Players can be on top of the world one minute and then have their careers ended seconds later; coping with the emotional and physical demands that entails is complicated — alongside the issue of having to find a new way to make a living.”

Sarpa CEO Piet Heymans said: “The results of the study will help us to comprehend the challenges that retired players are facing and to review and possibly adjust our assistance provided to players exiting professional rugby.

“We want to support and promote sustainable health and wellness among professional rugby players, both during and after their careers.

“We’d very much like ex-professional players to support this research as their participation will ensure future players are aware of and are prepared for the challenges when retiring from professional rugby.”

The project is being supported by Saru’s medical department. “We’re at ground zero in our understanding of what challenges our rugby players face when they retire from playing,” said Saru CEO Jurie Roux.

“Rugby turned professional in 1996 so we’re only now reaching the point where the first fully professional players are reaching their 40s and facing life with the legacy of a professional sports career.” 

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