Launch of Irish Brain Health Service with World Rugby

Launch of Irish Brain Health Service with World Rugby

World Rugby and Rugby Players Ireland have today launched a new Brain Health Service to support former elite players who have concerns about their brain health.  Ireland is the first country in the world to launch the new initiative which is available free of charge.  

The first of its kind, the service includes an awareness and education component, an online questionnaire and tele-health delivered cognitive assessment with a trained brain health practitioner.  This service assesses players for any brain health warning signs, provide advice on managing risk factors and signpost anyone in need of specialist care.  

In 2021, World Rugby launched its six-point plan to become the most progressive sport in the world on player welfare.  A key pillar of that strategic direction was a commitment to support former players. The Brain Health Service is therefore a big step towards fulfilling that ambition.  It sits alongside the use of new technology for current elite players such as smart mouthguards and trials of a lower tackle height in community rugby across Ireland and around the world. 

Funded by World Rugby, the Brain Health Service, has been developed using independent and scientifically proven examination techniques.  Participants are required to fill out an initial questionnaire before proceeding to an online consultation with a trained brain health practitioner.  

Players who do not display any warning signs are supported with the most up-to-date advice on keeping their brain health in-check and will also be advised of Rugby Players Ireland’s broad range of services which are available to past players. These include mental wellbeing support, personal development initiatives, career guidance and community engagement opportunities. 

Any player displaying warning signs of poor brain health will be referred to a specialist for further, in-person tests via their family doctor. 

The service will initially be made available to any retired player, male or female, who has played international 15s or 7s rugby, as well as any player who has played at a provincial level. Eligibility criteria have been set with advice from world leading independent brain health experts.    

World Rugby Chief Medical Officer Prof Éanna Falvey has welcomed the launch of the Brain Health Service saying “Former players read the news and hear the stories about some of their peers who are struggling.  There is no doubt that these stories generate a lot of anxiety, nervousness and worry.  We’re launching the Brain Health Service in Ireland today and we’ll be expanding quickly to countries around the world. The Brain Health Services gives any worried player a place to go which can put their minds at ease or if required, put them in touch with medical experts who can further investigate any warning signs.   

“Player welfare is World Rugby’s number one priority and that applies equally to current and former players.  In providing this Brain Health Service World Rugby is once again demonstrating that our sport leads the world in looking after our players at all levels of the game and that we will never stand still when it comes to ensuring rugby is a game that can be enjoyed by everyone at every level of the sport.”  

Chief Executive of Rugby Players Ireland Simon Keogh said We’re delighted to lead the way with ournewBrain Health Service in partnership with World Rugby.We aspire to bea world-leading players association and are always lookingfor ways that we can support rugby players who have contributed so much to the success of the game in Ireland. We want to help them in leadinghealthy and fulfilling lives during and beyond their time in rugby. 

“To this end we have been expanding our services into our growingpast player network. Through ourdiscussions with former players, it became clear that there wasaheightened awareness ofand sensitivity tobrain health issues.While wehavewelcomedtheir appetite for greater knowledge in this space, ithas alsoled tospeculationand worry. It is our hope that the Brain Health Service willnot only allay some of their fearsbut will alsoopen the door to those who maybe in need offurther care.” 

Chief Executive Officer of the IRFU Kevin Potts said “The IRFU is pleased to see the collaboration between World Rugby and Rugby Players Ireland in offering this service to former players. Player welfare is central in all that we do, and this initiative underscores the commitment to supporting those who have dedicated themselves to the sport, ensuring their continued wellbeing long after their playing days. By providing accessible assessments and expert guidance, the aim is to empower every player with the resources they need for a healthy and fulfilling life beyond rugby.” 

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