World Rugby launches brain health campaign

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World Rugby (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)
World Rugby (Photo by Andrew Redington/Getty Images)

World Rugby announced a new global education campaign on Wednesday "to increase understanding of the importance of brain health" for players.

The initiative, in conjunction with the International Rugby Players union, follows the revelation this month that former All Blacks prop Carl Hayman has early-onset dementia aged just 41.

Hayman has joined a concussion legal action launched by ex-players including England's Steve Thompson and Alix Popham of Wales, against rugby authorities.

One key component of the campaign is a video featuring leading independent experts outlining "12 modifiable risk factors for dementia and how rugby can play a positive role in reducing many of these".

The World Rugby statement listed some of these factors as lack of physical activity, lack of social contact, depression, heart disease and brain injury.

The initiative will also involve World Rugby supporting a model of free brain health clinics where former elite players will be able to access expert consultation, clinical assessment and advice.

The long-term aim of the new initiative is to create "brain health ambassadors for those in the wider community - whether they are involved in rugby or not", the statement explained.

"We care deeply about every member of our rugby family, and constantly strive to safeguard and support our players," World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said.

He said he was saddened by the "recent, brave accounts of former players about their experiences".

"As a former player myself, I appreciate that some players may be worried about their brain health.

"We must, and are, putting those players at the heart of our welfare plans."

The New Brain Health Initiative was launched at the World Rugby Medical Commission Conference.

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