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Retired Athlete Health Research Project

UK Rugby Health

Projects covered by this research

  • Global Rugby Health Research
  • UK Rugby Health Project
  • UK Retired Athlete Health Project

How's the mind and body holding up now that you've retired from rugby or athletics?

If you are a retired rugby player or non-contact sports athlete, or someone who has never taken part in competitive sport post school, we need your help to find out more about the long-term health implications of retired contact and non-contact athletes.

This is the first international study of its kind. Findings from the UK and other collaborating countries will be combined with those from the completed AUT/ WR/ NZRU New Zealand Rugby Health project, in an international effort for large scale evidence on athlete health post-retirement. The results will be shared with sports governing bodies. By participating, you’ll be making a vital contribution to the welfare of future generations of contact non-contact athletes.

(Just in case you're wondering... by 'retired' we mean from regular matches and training, the occasional game or session is fine.)

All participants will be entered into a prize draw to win £350. There are three runner up prizes of a sports team shirt of your choice. Terms and Conditions

Taking part is easy - there is one online questionnaire and one online neurocognitive test. You can also attend a free clinical evaluation at the Carnegie Research Institute, Headingley Campus, Leeds Beckett University, for a more in-depth assessment of your health. If you live in Canada or Australia the clinical centres are located at the University of Regina and the University of Victoria and the University of Sydney.

For more information about what is involved in all parts of the study, please see the menu below or contact us.

This project is medical research, so if you want to take part we will need you to complete a consent form, confidentiality is assured.

If you would like to talk to someone before taking part please contact:

Plus Icon Who are we looking for?
  1. Retired* professional / semi professional / international rugby union or rugby league players.
  2. Retired* amateur rugby union or rugby league players.
  3. Retired athletes from non-contact sports.
  4. People who have never competed in organised sport post-school.

*This study is designed for retired players only, players still actively involved in playing rugby are not eligible to participate. Occasional players are welcome to participate.

Plus Icon Why are we doing the research?

A life of playing rugby or taking part in non-contact athletics provides so many benefits – for some it’s a career, for others it’s all about friendship, enjoyment, good health and fitness and a lifelong love of the sport. Along the way, as with any physical pursuit, there are knocks, niggles and injuries – some more severe than others.

We all know that there are risks involved in playing rugby or taking part in athletics.

What we don’t know at the moment is the extent to which these activities affect players and athletes over the longer term - for better or worse. If we don’t know, we can’t maximise the benefits of being involved in the sports, while minimising the risks. It is important to understand that the study is not just about concussions - it is a broad study of how people who played rugby or are retired non-contact athletes are getting on later in life. We need people to enrol regardless of how they are getting on - whether they are happy and healthy or having difficulty with any aspect of their lives.

Plus Icon What do you need to do?

We need you to complete the consent form. You will then be sent two online questionnaires by email, which will take about one hour of your time – a small investment but a big contribution to the future welfare of people involved in rugby and non-contact athletics.

There is also the opportunity to visit our research institute at Leeds Beckett University for a Clinical Health Evaluation (health MOT). If you are in Canada, the University of Regina Concussion Testing Centre and the University of Victoria CARSA Varsity Injury Clinic, or if you are in Australia, the University of Sydney. A convenient appointment will be made and it will take around three hours. You will receive full feedback of your individual results.

  1. Complete the consent form.
  2. Part A: Brain and Nervous System Health Survey, CNS Vital Signs Test.
    This survey will give us measures of visual and verbal memory, information processing speed, attention, reaction time and other important brain health measures and will take around 30 minutes.
  3. Part B: General Health Questionnaire
    This questionnaire has sections on physical health, mental health, alcohol, and social relationships and should take 20-30 minutes.
  4. Part C: Clinical Health Evaluation

We will arrange a convenient appointment for you. The evaluation includes:

UK Clinic:
Bone, joint and body composition evaluation by state-of-the-art dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), Neuromuscular assessment, Cardiometabolic assessment by blood test and electrocardiogram (ECG), Prefrontal cortex neurovascular assessment.

Canada Clinic:
Cardiometabolic assessment by blood test and electrocardiogram (ECG), Prefrontal cortex neurovascular assessment.

Australia Clinic:

DXA bone, joint and body composition scans, and a blood test.

Total visit time: 3-5 hours (maximum). Free car parking is available.

*Please note: you must complete the consent form and questionnaires before arranging this appointment.

Plus Icon Which organisations are involved in the research?

The project involves Leeds Beckett University, the AUT University Sports Performance Research Institute New Zealand (SPRINZ), the University of Sydney, the University of New England, La Trobe University, the Division of Applied Medicine, University of Aberdeen, the University of Regina, the University of Victoria, Canada and Harvard University, USA. The project is kindly supported by NATUS Neurocom Sports Balance Systems, Tekscan and Biosense. Results will be reported to World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union and the Rugby Football League governing bodies.

Plus Icon Who are the people involved in conducting the research?

Professor Patria Hume (NZ Principal Investigator, Global Rugby Health Research Project)
Professor, Human Performance, Sports Performance Research Institute New Zealand, AUT University


Ian Entwistle
PhD student (musculoskeletal health), Institute for Sport, Physical Activity and Leisure, Leeds Beckett University


Mr Anick Sharma
School of Sport MSc student, Leeds Beckett University

Professor Richard Aspden (Collaborator)
Chair in Orthopaedic Surgery, Division of Applied Medicine, University of Aberdeen


Dr Alice Theadom
Deputy Director, National Institute for Stroke and Applied Neuroscience, Auckland University of Technology

Dr Alice Theadomsqaure

Dr Gwyn Lewis
Auckland University of Technology


Dr Doug King (NZ Co-Principal Investigator, Global Rugby Health Research Programme)
Lead Clinical Nurse Specialist, Emergency Department, Hutt Valley District Health Board and Research Associate, Rugby Codes Group, Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand

Professor Patrick Neary (Canada Co-Principal Investigator)
University of Regina, Canada

Photo of Professor Peter Neary

Dr Antonios Stavropolous

Clare Fraser (Australia Co-Principal Investigator)

Alan Pearce


Dr Michelle Swainson 
Lecturer in Physiology, Medical School, Lancaster University. Michelle brings expertise in cardiometabolic health and visceral adiposity.



Professor William Meehan
William P. Meehan III, MD, is Director of the Micheli Center for Sports Injury Prevention, Director of Research for the Brain Injury Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, and Co-Director of The Football Players Health Study at Harvard. 


Dr Dai Sugimoto
Dai Sugimoto, PhD is Director of Clinical Research at The Micheli Center, research technologist at Boston Children’s Hospital Division of Sports Medicine, and Instructor at Harvard Medical School.


Plus Icon News

The official launch date of the UK Rugby Health Project was Thursday 15th September 2016. Read the press release.

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