(Reuters) – Leeds Rhinos captain Stevie Ward retired from rugby league at the age of 27 on Tuesday due to the long-term effects of concussions he suffered last year.
Ward, who twice won the Grand Final and Challenge Cup with Leeds, said he suffered concussion in a pre-season friendly in January before sustaining another one in the season-opening league game two weeks later.
The loose forward, who missed the rest of the 2020 season and saw his Leeds contract expire at the end of the campaign, said he could not put his health at further risk.
“I have come to the conclusion, after over 11 months of severe symptoms, that I need to give this injury the respect and time it deserves and cannot put my health and brain to any further risk and detriment,” Ward said in a statement here.
“On a daily basis, I struggle with migraines, dizziness, motion sickness, sensitivity to light and screens, short-term memory issues, slurred speech, and an inability to exercise or do daily tasks without irritating my symptoms.”
Last month England’s World Cup-winning hooker Steve Thompson and seven other former rugby union players vowed to take legal action against the game’s governing bodies over an alleged failure to protect players from the risks of concussion.
World Rugby, England’s Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union said they take player safety “very seriously”.
“We have implemented coach, referee and player education and best practice protocols across the game and rugby’s approach to head injury assessments and concussion protocols has been recognised and led to many other team sports adopting our guidance.” the governing bodies said in a statement.
Ward called for further research into the long-term effects of concussion, saying the issue needed greater focus to protect players from the risks caused by it.
“The biggest question is what can be done to make things safer for our players now,” he said.
“We need to be more proactive and not rely on another generation of players to be guinea pigs for future research that will take years to give us the answers we need now.”
Reporting by Manasi Pathak in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris