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Broken Brad? A Kiwi perspective on player welfare.
Posted by: Boooo (IP Logged)
Date: 06 November, 2018 12:12

An interesting piece about European player welfare through the eyes of a kiwi journalist.


[www.stuff.co.nz]

All Blacks v England: Why Brad Shields is likely to end a broken man - Mark Reason

OPINION: Don't do it New Zealand. Don't do a Brad Shields. Don't sell your body for money and the glory of playing for another country. It will end in tears. It will end in a body that hurts every time you walk to the fridge.

Shields had played 45 minutes of his Wasps debut when he had to leave the pitch with a fractured cheekbone. Maybe he was just unlucky. Maybe it could have happened anywhere in the world. But to some of us it seemed like a grotesque symbol of the violent battering that the modern European rugby player puts his body through week after week.

Shields said, "A broken face wasn't the perfect start. My cheekbone cracked and moved along a bit, so they basically had to pull it back into place and screw it. They put a plate on my eyebrow and another one in my cheekbone through the inside of my mouth. Two titanium plates and a couple of screws. It's fine now and I'm good to go. I'm not Wolverine just yet."

If only, Brad, if only. Wolverine has mutant healing powers. You are just another breakable man. For now Shields is fit to play for England against the All Blacks this weekend. He is fit to stare down TJ Perenara's haka and chuckle at the thought of the England shirts that he left in the drawers of Beauden Barrett and Dane Coles. But how long will the laughter last.


You look at the current England rugby team and it is a scandal. They are down to their fifth choice loosehead prop. Before the South Africa game 15 players were unavailable through injury. They included eight knee injuries, a calf, four ankles, a hand and an arm.

During the match against the Boks Tom Curry left the field with another ankle injury and looks almost certain to miss the All Blacks game. Last season Curry missed the Autumn series with a wrist injury. He is just 20 years of age.

Last weekend Ken Owens, the Wales hooker, smashed his head in a midfield collision. Owens came back out onto the field early in the second half. A doctor friend of mine could not believe what he was seeing.

There seems no end in sight to the slaughter in Europe. New Zealand's care for its players is decades ahead of England's and Steve Hansen is still concerned that they are playing too much rugby. They are. But in Europe the situation is catastrophic.

I understand players from poor Pacific families going over for the money, but it is literally blood money. One day I hope some of the people in charge of club rugby in Europe face a class action because their treatment of the players is negligent. They play them until they break. And then they put them out there again before they are fully mended.

Do you remember the England team that won 3-0 in Australia in 2016. Half of them are now smashed to bits. If you are a front row or back row forward, you face a lifetime in casualty. If you are a midfield back, you face a lifetime in casualty.

Manu Tuilagi has played just one test for England since 2014 due to attritional injuries.
GETTY IMAGES
Manu Tuilagi has played just one test for England since 2014 due to attritional injuries.
Manu Tuilagi, who might be fit for the weekend, has played once for England since 2014, a victim of attrition injuries. Jonathan Joseph is recovering from ankle surgery. Ben Te'o has had a calf injury, a torn quadriceps and he ruptured all his ankle ligaments after the Lions tour.

Te'o says, "When I was getting ready for surgery for my quad, I was laying in the bed with the gown on and I was thinking, 'I can't believe I am going under again for another op' - more crutches and all that. In both codes I've played there are lots of times where you get pressured into coming back early...

"I snapped my ankle out here playing for Worcester, I ruptured all the ligaments in it. I have a plate, I have screws in it ... Unfortunately this ankle is something I feel every day and will deal with for the rest of my life, arthritis and that kind of stuff ... I think about packing it in the whole time when I wake up and my foot is stiff. But then you get to training and start loosening up. Once you are out playing, and you've played five weeks on the bounce, life is really good."

The clubs literally trade on that devil's bargain. They trade on the fact that players will push themselves to come back early because the high of playing is so, so far from the low of coping with injury.

Some don't make it. Wales and Lions captain Sam Warburton has been forced to retire before the age of 30. England prop Joe Marler walked away from the international game. He was subconsciously trying to pick up yellow and red cards so he would miss England duty. He couldn't take the travel, the bashing, the time away from his young family.

Most like Billy Vunipola soldier on. Vunipola has had an operation on torn knee ligaments, shoulder surgery, a torn hamstring, two fractures of his right arm and is currently out with a fracture of his left arm. Vunipola is 26-years-old.

He says, "I can tell you a lot of people still have injuries and try to hide it. We saw it with the high turnover of players being released, it's almost like we're into NFL territory. Something is going to give. Something might happen where we follow the NFL or NBA, where they had a lockout ... I feel like something needs to happen for the suits to realise these guys are serious.

"It comes down to how much we play. My body could not handle it. I might think I'm strong and tough but I'm not. I just got worn down. The suits are always talking about it but they have never played nine months in today's rugby."

Vunipola tried to be a hero and then he would break again. He wouldn't tell people he was hurting. He was too embarrassed to attend sponsors' events when injured because he felt like a fake. This is the honour of the modern player.

But where is the honour of the people running the game. They will sell out Twickenham for the All Blacks game, even though the match is a fraud. The England team is just a shadow. The public is being cheated. The All Blacks are being cheated.

But the RFU and the owners of the clubs will keep taking the money, cosy in the knowledge that they will not be the ones on their hands and knees, crawling to the bathroom through the pain.

Re: Broken Brad? A Kiwi perspective on player welfare.
Posted by: StevieWasp (IP Logged)
Date: 06 November, 2018 12:32

Maybe he should be telling the AB's that they should run a bit slower and tackle a little softer so as not to cause any injuries.

I wonder if this journalist wrote anything relevant following the spear tackle on BoD in the Lions game.



He is right. The players are playing a lot of games and it is having a toll on some of them, but I really don't believe that it's an England or European thing.
If NZ / Australia could get more money for more games, I suspect they'd play more too.


In fact, the quote from Te'o suggests it to be true in Australia
Quote:
Te'o says, "When I was getting ready for surgery for my quad, I was laying in the bed with the gown on and I was thinking, 'I can't believe I am going under again for another op' - more crutches and all that. In both codes I've played there are lots of times where you get pressured into coming back early...


He only played League in Australia, so it suggests to me that the pressure to come back early from injury is not just a European rugby union problem.



I feel that the author is as concerned about losing talent as he is about protecting players

Re: Broken Brad? A Kiwi perspective on player welfare.
Posted by: Nomad_Wasp (IP Logged)
Date: 06 November, 2018 14:17

I think he's spot on. The players here are absolutely flogged.

BUT

It's basically entirely at the behest of NZ and Aus that we're moving towards an 11 month season, so it's a bit rich that they're having a pop about player welfare

Re: Broken Brad? A Kiwi perspective on player welfare.
Posted by: BH90 (IP Logged)
Date: 06 November, 2018 14:17

Mark Reason is a NZ-based journalist, but he is not a Kiwi. He's an expat and son of the former Telegraph rugby writer John Reason. Let's just say that the late Reason Senior was not everybody's cup of tea, and leave it at that.

Re: Broken Brad? A Kiwi perspective on player welfare.
Posted by: welsh wasp (IP Logged)
Date: 06 November, 2018 14:42

Lots of general observations but nothing to explain any special differences between Northern & southern. Hemispheres. I am sure any lessons are shared already.
Be interesting to compare stats between Ireland and the other Six Nations since the Irish players play many fewer games. But their scrum half is out for a long time.

Re: Broken Brad? A Kiwi perspective on player welfare.
Posted by: Gaz (IP Logged)
Date: 06 November, 2018 14:45

Don't they have injuries in NZ?

He makes a valid point though.

Re: Broken Brad? A Kiwi perspective on player welfare.
Posted by: Beckenham Bandit (IP Logged)
Date: 06 November, 2018 15:08

Stupid article. Brad Shields injury has nothing to do with being overplayed.

In terms of injuries to the current England team Eddie Jones's brutal training methods have more to answer for than the English clubs. Who actually look after and manage their assets.

Re: Broken Brad? A Kiwi perspective on player welfare.
Posted by: Hangover (IP Logged)
Date: 06 November, 2018 15:51

The only line that really concerns me is the ' pressured to come back early '. I think this is outrageous if true, and it does look like from the outside that it might be. Players get hurt that is the nature of the game. But they MUST be fully healed before they play again. Anybody pressurising players back too early should be chucked out of the game.

Re: Broken Brad? A Kiwi perspective on player welfare.
Posted by: StevieWasp (IP Logged)
Date: 06 November, 2018 15:57

Quote:
Hangover
The only line that really concerns me is the ' pressured to come back early '. I think this is outrageous if true, and it does look like from the outside that it might be. Players get hurt that is the nature of the game. But they MUST be fully healed before they play again. Anybody pressurising players back too early should be chucked out of the game.

It's a relative term though, isn't it.
No rugby player is ever fully 100% fit. They're always carrying knocks, bumps, bruises.
When is it acceptable, and when is it not?

Should any player ever postpone surgery to play a couple of important games?

and does this "pressured to come back early" mean, back to training or back to a matchday squad. Does early mean before the injury has healed, or before the player is match fit?

What does the pressuring mean as well?
Is it that the coaches are telling him that he's ready when he doesn't think he's ready, or is it his own pressure that he's worried he might lose his spot in the team because his replacement is playing well?


Finally, how does anyone know when the right time is?
Is it solely that you come back and don't get reinjured in the same game, or that you don't feel any discomfort at all?
Is it only possible with hindsight to know when the right time is?

Re: Broken Brad? A Kiwi perspective on player welfare.
Posted by: Hangover (IP Logged)
Date: 06 November, 2018 16:11

I want the injury that took them out to be Medically healed.

Re: Broken Brad? A Kiwi perspective on player welfare.
Posted by: StevieWasp (IP Logged)
Date: 06 November, 2018 16:40

Quote:
Hangover
I want the injury that took them out to be Medically healed.

is "medically healed" even a phrase that doctors would use to describe something.

If i think about a broken bone, the bone will be healed and strong before the muscle has rebuilt / regrown.
Even after the muscle has built back up, the player's ability may still be below their best lifts or sprints.
And even then, their fitness won't be back to the same levels for a period of time either.


I have no idea what the correct answer is.
I'm sure that in an ideal World, every player would have the time to get back to full strength and fitness before getting involved in contact training.

However, I suspect that what actually happens is that while undergoing rehab, they're gradually doing more and more work to see how the injury responds.
If there's no issues, they carry on. If they feel pain or have problems, they step back down.
Eventually, they're back out on the training field for light training (presumably mostly aerobic), then full training but non-contact, then contact training etc

I'm sure there's a lot more to it than that, but I think that the most common way of identifying the condition of an injury after a specified amount of time is to try it out and see what the reaction is.

If the player is eventually getting through full contact training without any issues, doesn't that suggest that they're ready to go back and play?

Re: Broken Brad? A Kiwi perspective on player welfare.
Posted by: coddy (IP Logged)
Date: 06 November, 2018 17:38

I stopped reading the piece when the author described players who upped sticks and went North as "playing for blood money" ridiculously over dramatic and quite derogatory to players who have wanted to secure a higher standard of living for their families I'd imagine.

Re: Broken Brad? A Kiwi perspective on player welfare.
Posted by: Nomad_Wasp (IP Logged)
Date: 06 November, 2018 18:18

Quote:
Beckenham Bandit
Stupid article. Brad Shields injury has nothing to do with being overplayed.
In terms of injuries to the current England team Eddie Jones's brutal training methods have more to answer for than the English clubs. Who actually look after and manage their assets.

Except they don't. As at least one outstanding lawsuit against a premiership club alleges. Players are absolutely flogged in the Premiership, and the top ones rarely get a break. And the clubs do very little to help that.

I think it's ridiculous we don't have more break weekends, and I think the Premiership Cup, and the Anglo-Welsh before it, are an utter farce and waste, driven by nothing except a desire to squeeze more money out of the game.

Re: Broken Brad? A Kiwi perspective on player welfare.
Posted by: Beckenham Bandit (IP Logged)
Date: 06 November, 2018 18:29

Quote:
Nomad_Wasp
Quote:
Beckenham Bandit
Stupid article. Brad Shields injury has nothing to do with being overplayed.
In terms of injuries to the current England team Eddie Jones's brutal training methods have more to answer for than the English clubs. Who actually look after and manage their assets.

Except they don't. As at least one outstanding lawsuit against a premiership club alleges. Players are absolutely flogged in the Premiership, and the top ones rarely get a break. And the clubs do very little to help that.

I think it's ridiculous we don't have more break weekends, and I think the Premiership Cup, and the Anglo-Welsh before it, are an utter farce and waste, driven by nothing except a desire to squeeze more money out of the game.

Most of the clubs do look after their players. How many players have had career ending injuries due to club mismanagement? Meanwhile Eddie Jones's sadistic coaching methods seem to break England players at will. Flogging them seemingly without any consideration for their club coaches or conditioning regimes. Sam Jones anyone? The fact that Jones's career was ended by an amateur judo injury is an outright disgrace.

That is before you even mention the nonsense of the Lions Tour. Which has a well ended reputation for breaking players too.

Re: Broken Brad? A Kiwi perspective on player welfare.
Posted by: Boooo (IP Logged)
Date: 06 November, 2018 19:17

Quote:
How many players have had career ending injuries due to club mismanagement?

But thatís something you will never be able to prove either way.
However, everyone Ďiní the English game agrees that the players are playing too much high intensity rugby.

Too much rugby = less time to repair and heal.

Itís a simple equation.
And due to the structure of the game in England too much pressure is put on clubs, coaches and players to play when they are not even 70% fit.

Thereís a real ticking time-bomb with player welfare going on.
Both physically and psychologically.
And an inevitable law-suit, unfortunately, will probably be the only trigger for proper change in the game.

Re: Broken Brad? A Kiwi perspective on player welfare.
Posted by: John Tee (IP Logged)
Date: 06 November, 2018 19:29

By the same token, clubs need revenue from the extra games and also tv...

I'd raise the Cap and also make the rosta bigger, but that is at odds with rugby clubs earning it's keep.

The game is falling to attract extra fans and attendances in the main are low.

The best team in the league may not always fill its small ground, iirc

It doesn't really add up...?

Internationals at Twickenham seem well attended but I'm not sure by many rugby fans or club followers...??
I wasn't there on Saturday but the atmosphere on tv seemed pretty low key and many seats were empty after half time.

Re: Broken Brad? A Kiwi perspective on player welfare.
Posted by: Boooo (IP Logged)
Date: 06 November, 2018 19:54

By the same token, if the clubsí main players are out injured for large chunks of the season...how does that pull in the fans?

Fans come to watch their favourite players.

Personally, I would be happy to watch a game of rugby every two weeks if it meant I got to see all my favourite players playing Ďmostí of the time.

What do others think?

Re: Broken Brad? A Kiwi perspective on player welfare.
Posted by: StevieWasp (IP Logged)
Date: 06 November, 2018 20:12

The proposed changes by the rfu add some rest breaks into the season.

If you want to see what former players think of that, check out the Twitter accounts of those like Paul Grayson, Kyren Bracken and Alex Corbisiero.
They all think it's a terrible idea and that there isn't a single player who is happy with the recent outcome.

They seem less bothered about rest weeks, but just want a shorter season

Re: Broken Brad? A Kiwi perspective on player welfare.
Posted by: Shugs (IP Logged)
Date: 06 November, 2018 20:35

I watched a re-run of the Eng v SA game from 2004 at the weekend. It's obvious when you do that how much concern for player welfare has come on. There were multiple seat belt tackles, shoulder barges and head shots. I've read a few articles from SH journalists, especially from NZ. They are not without merit as is the case with this one. They would have you believe though that the game over there is one where players deliver faultless error free running rugby where even the props have fly halves hands and that no-one gets injured as they only play twice a year. They do tend to have a rose tinted view of their own game.

Re: Broken Brad? A Kiwi perspective on player welfare.
Posted by: Beckenham Bandit (IP Logged)
Date: 06 November, 2018 21:24

Quote:
Boooo
Quote:
How many players have had career ending injuries due to club mismanagement?

But thatís something you will never be able to prove either way.
However, everyone Ďiní the English game agrees that the players are playing too much high intensity rugby.

Too much rugby = less time to repair and heal.

Itís a simple equation.
And due to the structure of the game in England too much pressure is put on clubs, coaches and players to play when they are not even 70% fit.

Thereís a real ticking time-bomb with player welfare going on.
Both physically and psychologically.
And an inevitable law-suit, unfortunately, will probably be the only trigger for proper change in the game.

When players are forced into premature retirement they tend to be pretty prominent. Not heard many players blaming clubs for being badly treated. The very opposite usually. Which is a sharp contrast to France where lots of foreign players end up disillusioned because many French clubs have woeful medical and sports science support.

Leicester were probably the one English club who had a "no holds barred" training regime as part of the club culutre and had a very bad injury record as a result. But as the professional era has progressed Leicester's full on training methods have become increasingly redundant. Injurying more players and new players not putting up with it.

Clubs like Wasps and Saracens have pioneered player welfare provision. Minimising contact training, focusing on skills etc. As Wales do at international level. Eddie Jones seem to have taken England back to the bad old days of flog them until they squeal and then flog them some more. Counterproductive and as we have seen dangerous.

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