Oxford rugby players praised for their commitment to donating brains for concussion research
The Oxford University men’s rugby team’s commitment to contributing to a brighter future for the next generation of players has been hailed after they pledged to donate their brains to the Concussion Legacy Project.
Ahead of Saturday’s college game at Twickenham, Oxford players followed in England’s World Cup winner Steve Thompson’s footsteps by offering to donate their brains to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) research and d Other Consequences of Traumatic Brain Injury in Contact Sports.
The Concussion Legacy Project Brain Bank was only launched in September through a partnership between the Concussion Legacy Foundation UK and the Jeff Astle Foundation, but the pledge represents the third major donation to help tackle the diagnosis of dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases in former sports athletes. .
United States international Nick Civetta is part of the Oxford squad and while the 32-year-old is in the final stages of his career, the majority of his team-mates are just getting started, and he has spoken of their understanding of why this is such an important question.
“Neurodegenerative disease in contact sport is something that concerns me greatly and should be on the mind of every contact sport parent or player,” Civetta told the PA news agency.
“The synergy between us being rugby players, also academics and people concerned about their brain function and brain health later in life, it seemed like a no-brainer.
“Also, these are uncomfortable conversations to have with your teammates, especially the younger ones just starting out in their rugby careers, but the way the guys have reacted to the opportunity to contribute to an organization with such important goals for our sport was really impressive.
“I was really impressed with how they were able to compartmentalize the heavier side of what CLF does and their commitment has been really great.”
Civetta, who played at the 2019 World Cup and faced England at Twickenham last summer, has been encouraged by the work of CLF UK, which aims to find a cure for CTE by 2040.
America has long been thought to be ahead of the UK in efforts to prevent retired contact sports players from suffering from dementia, which is largely due to the rise in the number of current and former NFL players who reported traumatic brain injury in the early 21st century.
As a result, concussion protocols for American football were introduced for 2009, but across the Atlantic other sports and countries have been slower to respond until recent years.
Oxford lock Civetta added: “The fact that the United States has gotten into this is part and parcel of the scary things that have happened to American football players over the last 20 to 30 years.
“Rugby being almost in its 30th year as a professional sport, you are starting to have a first generation of guys who were professional rugby players, now in their 40s and 50s, who are potentially starting to see symptoms and that is scary the s*** out of me!
“That should definitely be a cause for more money to invest in research for this sort of thing.”
Although Civetta only suffered a concussion three or four times during a career that saw him play in France, Italy and England, he saw the devastating impact that a lack of understanding on the matter may have.
The former Newcastle and Doncaster striker feels positive developments are underway in his sport which, coupled with the work of players like CLF, will aim to help the next generation of players enjoy a brighter future after retirement.
“Hopefully in the next five to 10 years we will have a way out of this disease, either with a cure or through the ability to diagnose very early and find a cure,” he said on Saturday. ahead of the 150th anniversary of the Oxford vs Cambridge college match.
“He’s everywhere and has probably affected every rugby player through their friends and teammates over the years, so it’s scary.
“You can’t avoid it. I think I was quite lucky and suffered three, maybe four minor concussions in my career.
“But I’ve been on the field with guys who had a concussion, stayed, had another concussion and ended up with second impact syndrome, brain bleeds and had to have a quarterback taken away. of their skulls, which was the end of their career. .
“It’s ubiquitous, it’s everywhere and risk is an integral part of sport, but we have to design sport to fit the best outcome for people’s brain health, right?
“I think that’s a big part of what the CLF is aiming for and a big part of what World Rugby is aiming for with their state-of-the-art concussion protocols which will hopefully continue to improve.”