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Rugby: What Makes People go Back?

By Connor Hughes, Egwyl Contributor

The sun sets early throughout the winter months but the Glyndwr University Rugby team still continue to meet every Monday afternoon to train. With the temperature just above 0 degrees celsius, and the only light source coming from the floodlights around the astroturf and yet all of the boys still gather together for 2 hours of training. With a match pretty much every Wednesday each member of the team has a duty to turn up to training if they want to get a game.

With 3 played games under their belt and two solid victories and a close loss in the last game before christmas. A big game coming up in the rugby calendar is the varsity match, which is an annual event played between Glyndwr and Chester Warrington, and Glyndwr won it last year so it will be a very heated match this year. The team tries to get involved with as many charity events as possible with the most recent one being to raise money for breast cancer research. The rugby team went up against the netball team of the university, with both of the teams having to wear fetching netball dresses in order to play the game, it finished with a close score of 29-28 to the rugby team and the love for one another as a team shone through then.

One thing that rugby is not without, is its related injuries, and Glyndwr’s team has definitely had its share. With one player suffering from a heart attack for an unknown reason in the first game of the season and as soon as he was fit enough to play he was back out on the field, and since then other players dislocating shoulders and getting knocked out, but they all come back no matter what. The question that many people ask is what on Earth makes rugby players want to go back and play or even start playing in the first place with the high level of risk associated with it?

If you ask a sportsperson why they play the sports they do they may say things like, I enjoy the game, or they play for the fitness aspect. However, if you ask a rugby player what makes them go back they will give you an answer that does not match any other. The answer may not sound like much, but to a rugby player the reason they go back is indescribable.

I myself am a rugby player and I unfortunately have had a fair few injuries throughout my time playing rugby union. My most severe injury occurred when I was playing for the Under 15s at school. As a team we were coming from back to back victories against other schools, and this game was going to be last for a long time.The Grove school from Shropshire were to be our next competitors, only 5 minutes into the game and there had been a mismatch in our teams so we were not facing our opposite number so I had the pleasure of facing a seventeen stone 6 foot 5 inch forward. At the age of 15 this is quite an impressive size to achieve, and makes you a serious player in rugby. Going in for the tackle and I hit his legs and as he kept going forwards I did not, he started to fall and as he did so my legs where in the wrong place so when he landed my left leg made several audible cracks which were heard all over the field. Needless to say I didn’t get back up in a hurry and the game was stopped, the next thing I remember was looking into the eyes of my coach who kept saying “Can you hear me?” and “You need to stay awake, don’t close your eyes”.

Waking up in hospital, what felt like minutes later with my mum already by my side to find out that I was going to be going for an x-ray, to later discover my leg had been broken in three places. Once getting the hip to ankle leg cast on I was free to go home, this meant I missed the next week from school and to my devastation the next 6 months of rugby.

Every day once I was off the crutches and back walking I would ask my sports coach if I could get back out onto the field and play rugby again, and his response would be the same every week “Not until I see fit”. Friends and family kept asking me why I wanted to go back so much and my answers differed every time, with the most common answer being that I miss the camaraderie that we as a team had. The game itself also makes me want to go back as it is so exhilarating and I think it would make anybody go back.

I knew it was not just me who felt this way towards the game so I interviewed the captain of the University team, Kieran Jones. I quickly discovered that he too had had many injuries in his 15 years of playing the game. The injury that will always stay with him occur when he was playing Under 15s against Duvent in South Wales. That game Kieran was playing on the left wing and he went in for a tackle and the next thing he knew he was on the floor riddle with pain in his shoulder. A few minutes of calming down and he was back on his feet back in the action to see the game off with a victory for his team. His parents thought they should be safe and visit the hospital to check if his shoulder was damaged in any serious way and he was told it was “just muscle damage”, so for the next 3 years Kieran continued to play the sport he loved, winning some and losing some but always wanting more. For those 3 years his shoulder pains followed him everywhere he went until it was too much to bare, talking to his GP he discovered something very sinister about his injury those years ago. He had dislocated his shoulder and popped it back in, with every game after that this same thing occurring over and over which was the thing causing him the pain. Apart from this the cartilage in the shoulder had been split, and his posterior deltoid had been torn in two and his right shoulder blade had rotated 90 degrees from its original point. This severe injury had gone for 3 year undiagnosed so the consequences to follow would serious impact Kieran’s life. Treating this injury required surgery which was undergone on the 20th of August 2012, and Kieran was off from sports for over a year.

This was a difficult time for him as he played the game every week for most of his life and it had now been taken away, Kieran said that “as I have been playing the game since I was seven years old it is difficult to just stop, and I would never want to not play it”. With every week going by and all of his friends telling him all of the exciting stories of the match they had just played this made him feel like he was missing out even more. He said “through the months towards my return the coaches showed loads of support getting me extra physiotherapy through the senior ranks of the club I played for.”

“I suffered a knee injury a few years ago and that left a psychological impact on me as the knee is so exposed and only has the range of movement of flexion and extension, and it is so difficult to build muscle around the knee to protect it from injury whereas the shoulder is surrounded by muscle so has not bothered me since.”

Even after these injuries, plus a few others Kieran still plays the game and never looks back, with the chance of an injury every week people wonder why he and many others go back to play. Kieran said “that the team will always be a team, and they are there for each other through the highs and lows, throughout everyone’s injury and will always encourage each other to do the best thing for themselves, and you can not find that anywhere else.”

All sports have their positives and negatives, but very few sports share the same experiences people get when playing rugby. Whether you have suffered injury or know of those who have, I am almost sure that they will still be playing to this day and not regret doing so.

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