A video promoting World Rugby’s latest brain health campaign has been called “patronising” by a former player who retired because of brain injuries.
Ex-Dragon Adam Hughes is among a group of former players who are taking legal action against governing bodies.
World Rugby recently produced a video with advice on brain health as it launched clinics for former players.
Hughes said linking that launch to the video was “disappointing” and “felt just a bit patronising”.
However, the 31-year-old, who also counts Exeter and Bristol among his former clubs, did have some praise for the brain clinic initiative.
He told the Scrum V podcast: “Sandwiched in that report was an initiative that ex-players can access their brain clinics, which I’ll applaud and I think is a good thing.”
That initiative is a collaboration between World Rugby, International Rugby Players, Brain Health Scotland and independent experts.
“But the disappointing thing was it was linked to this video, which basically says ‘look, there’s 12 reasons why any current or former player can be suffering from brain health, only one of which is actually getting your head knocked around playing rugby’,” said Hughes.
“You’re talking about alcoholics, diet, not keeping fit and active.
“Everyone that I know in this case has said ‘everyone I know of is fit and active [and] hasn’t got any sort of alcohol problems’ and the only common factor across the whole board is that we all played rugby and we all had our heads knocked around an awful lot.”
Hughes added: “They might have released it in the best interests, but it came across in completely the wrong way; just almost like ‘yes, we’ll look after you, but the reasons why you’re struggling is not necessarily our fault’.
“That’s how it felt.”
A World Rugby spokesperson said: “We care deeply about every member of the rugby family. Our recently launched six-point player welfare strategy is underpinned by an ambition to make rugby the most progressive sport in the world on player welfare, and education is at the heart of that plan.
“This important brain health initiative is a collaboration including professors Willie Stewart and Craig Ritchie, Doctor Fiona Wilson and Brain Health Scotland.
“By providing accessible video resources and high-quality care through the establishment of brain health clinics around the world we can, as a sport, better support current and former players, both mentally and physically.
“We would be happy to discuss our approach with Adam and it’s great to hear that he supports the brain health clinic concept.
“We remain unwavering in our commitment to reduce the risk of head trauma, which is one of the dementia risk factors highlighted in the new video.
“Under our player welfare strategy we have doubled our investment in research and science, undertaking landmark research using instrumented mouthguards to understand what it looks like to play the game at every level and better assess head impact events.
“We are also driving laws modification, while implementing contact training guidance, tackle technique education and injury-prevention programmes.
“All of these priority activities have been introduced to help make the game safer for players at all levels and stages. We will never stand still where player welfare is concerned.”