Rugby League Cares is proud to announce the launch of a ground-breaking new project that will see the sport of rugby league take the lead in the field of fostering good brain health in players.
The Rugby League Cares Brain Health Fund has been established to allow the implementation of a far-reaching education and support programme for both current and retired rugby league players.
The aim of the fund is to equip players and their families with the knowledge they need to sustain good brain health during their careers, and to provide important support for those who have been diagnosed with neurological conditions, both pre- and post-retirement.
Working with a wide range of organisations including the Rugby Football League and its member clubs, plus medical experts, the independent charity RL Cares has already begun to roll out a comprehensive education programme to current players about this important aspect of their health.
Concerns around the long-term effects of head injuries in contact sports have increased in recent years in the light of advances in scientific research. The RL Cares Brain Health Fund will enable the sport to share latest developments in this emerging field so that players can make informed choices.
The fund will also provide advice to players suffering poor brain health, and to their families, such as signposting to support from statutory services and, should resources allow, respite care.
Steve McCormack, Director of Welfare at RL Cares, has said: “The RL Cares Brain Health Fund is a significant first for sport in this country and once again puts rugby league at the forefront of innovation and best practice when it comes to player welfare.
“Rugby league is now safer to play than it has ever been but, like every contact sport, there are inherent risks in taking part.
“The Brain Health Fund will help us provide players with the information and advice they need to mitigate those risks, to make informed choices about their own health, and to be as healthy as they can be.
“The brain health workshops that we’ve begun delivering to Super League clubs have been enthusiastically received by the playing community and that programme will expand as the Brain Health Fund grows.
“We also want to help the families of current and retired players who are experiencing poor brain health: we aim to put together a comprehensive package of support and build on the sport’s proud record of looking after its own.”
McCormack is a member of the sport’s Brain Health Steering Group which also features high level medical experts, including Prof Chris Brookes, Dr Gemma Phillips and Prof Ben Jones, plus RL Cares trustee Kevin Sinfield OBE.
Kevin Sinfield MBE, RL Cares trustee and former player, has added: “Education players about brain health is massively important: they spend their careers trying to look after every part of their bodies but often neglect the brain and their own heads.
“We can change the path for some people by providing the support they need to become better, but we can also support ourselves to be better too.
“Anything we can do to help current and former players understand that there are things they can do to make the path ahead a better path is to be welcomed.
“Education is vital, both for players and their families. Players need to help themselves because they have to be accountable and responsible for their own careers and health.
“The support for families is really important. Through my work with the MND community I understand the value of a good support network.
“Not only from a love and care perspective, but friendship and socially: there will be times when things aren’t going to plan and things might seem to be off-track, having a friendly face with some clear, simple advice is a massive help.
“That’s where RL Cares and the Brain Health Fund have an important role to play.”
Prof Chris Brookes, who has been involved in the sport for almost 30 years as team doctor with Great Britain, England and Wigan, said the RL Cares Brain Health Fund is a continuation of the sport’s proactive approach to player welfare.
He said:“I am really proud of the way in which rugby league has led the way in the field of player welfare.
“Through the work of RL Cares, player welfare is first and foremost at every club and the Brain Health Fund is another step forward in our commitment to make the game as safe as it can be.
“Players have always had worries about their health, especially when they suffer a brain trauma like concussion, and the Brain Health Fund will ensure that not only will they understand more, they will also be able to speak to experts about their concerns and anxieties.”
The brain health programme will be funded by voluntary donations and an active fundraising campaign of events run by Rugby League Cares.
To support the RL Cares Brain Health Fund, or for more information, please visit www.rlcares.org.uk/