Lewis Moody ‘s Reflections on Sports Concussions

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Having joined The Drake Foundation as its Rugby Union Ambassador, the rugby legend Lewis Moody MBE shares the organisation founder James Drake’s dedication to player well-being. Moody now plays an important role in the Foundation’s work, which includes funding research into the long-term impact that sports concussions and other head impacts may have on sports players’ brain health.

As the Foundation’s Rugby Union Ambassador, Moody has suggested he is keen not only to support the Foundation’s research efforts but also to offer his insights as a professional rugby player.

Rugby Union Ambassador Lewis Moody

Having enjoyed a long and successful rugby career, which included winning the Rugby World Cup, the England Premiership, the European Cup, and the Six Nations, not to mention making over 250 appearances for the Leicester Tigers and Bath Rugby, Moody has expressed that he recognises the potential impact of sports concussions and has indicated that he is an advocate for protecting present and future players.

In The Drake Foundation, Moody has found an organisation that shares his dedication to protecting players’ brain health. Neither Moody nor the Foundation wants to eradicate rugby or make people feel too anxious to enjoy the game. Instead, they are working to uncover the potential risks associated with head impacts so the industry can improve training protocols, game rules, and player assessments. This way, players at all levels will be able to enjoy safer rugby practices.

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Change At All Levels of Rugby

Moody doesn’t profess to be a researcher or a scientist, but, as a retired rugby player who is passionate about the game and its players’ welfare, he has dedicated himself to supporting changes that make rugby as safe as possible. Speaking to The Drake Foundation when announcing his new ambassador role in February 2022, Moody said he hoped to see safety changes implemented across the board, from grassroots level to the professional, elite game. For example, while elite rugby players have access to doctors and medics, it’s usually parents and coaches who offer first aid during grassroots and children’s matches. These coaches and parents need support so they can adhere to important safety guidelines.

Understanding Risks Associated With Sports Concussions

Moody recalled that, during his professional career, the industry only had a limited understanding of the risks that sports concussions and other head injuries can pose. The doctors and coaches looked after players as best as they could with the knowledge they had at the time. Moody’s main concern after sustaining a sports concussion was to get back on the pitch as soon as possible. He explained that players who suffered head injuries may have been keen to return to play as they might be concerned that another player would take their jersey if they couldn’t resume.

Moody explained that the public now better understands the pressure that medics and coaches were sometimes under to get players back in the game. He noted that it would have taken a strong-minded individual to stand his ground and declare a player unfit to play after sustaining a concussion when that player fought the decision. Now, as organisations like The Drake Foundation conduct research into the lasting effects of sports concussions and other head injuries, many players and coaches are more accepting when medics advise players to come off the pitch.

Lewis Moody’s Sports Concussion Experiences

Lewis Moody reflected on a concussion incident from his own career when a doctor recommended he spend 24 hours under hospital surveillance. He recalled his casual reaction — he felt fine and didn’t believe he needed the hospital stay. He now realises the importance of this medical attention.

He also reflected on a game against Tonga, during which he sustained two head injuries and was adamant that he would continue playing no matter the medic’s advice. It wasn’t until the next day, when he visited Euro Disney and, against medical advice, rode a roller coaster, that his head went into a “flat spin”. This was his first experience of a serious sports concussion.

Aside from his first-hand experiences of sports concussions, Moody has also seen the damage that sports concussions can cause in his good friend and fellow teammate, Steve Thompson, who was diagnosed with early-onset dementia at age 42 and has no memory of winning the 2003 World Cup. More than 200 retired rugby players who are experiencing similar symptoms have joined Thompson to file a lawsuit against World Rugby, the Welsh Rugby Union, and the Rugby Football Union (RFU).

Reduced Contact Training

Given the results of ongoing studies from organisations like The Drake Foundation, Moody has suggested that he would like to see changes in the amount of contact training that players engage in. Although he enjoyed full contact training during his rugby career, the risks associated with sports concussions and other head injuries weren’t as widely recognised at the time. Moody is an avid fan of the NFL (National Football League) and notes that a lot of their contact training is technical and includes little to no collision-based contact. He would now like to see reduced contact training not only in elite ruby but also at grassroots level.

Moody continues to work with The Drake Foundation on key research that examines the potential links between head injuries and long-term brain health outcomes. He looks forward to further supporting the Foundation’s essential work.

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Funding Sports Concussion Research

The Drake Foundation funds research that uncovers the risks of head injuries, especially those sustained in sports and intimate partner violence (IPV). Since launching its first study in 2014, the Foundation has invested more than £2.2 million into research funding and open-access resources that unite sport, science, and society to better understand the possible links between repetitive head impacts and the later onset of neurodegenerative diseases like dementia.

 

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