The concussion debate
Hape: Players are treated like pieces of meat
June 2, 2014
Shontayne Hape in action for England. He has sounded a warning against the dangers of concussion © Getty Images
Former England centre Shontayne Hape has accused coaches of treating players like "pieces of meat" after finally announcing his retirement from rugby.
Hape also sounded a warning against the dangers of concussion after being forced to call time on his playing career because of a series of head injuries.
Hape's last professional game was for Montpellier last year and, although he received medical advice to quit the sport in January, he has only just revealed his decision to retire and the shocking reasons for it.
Hape, 33, claims he was often put under pressure to return to action after head injuries before he was ready. He suffered more than 20 concussions and was frequently knocked out during his career, including several times in succession during the 2012-13 season at Montpellier. Subsequent scans revealed his brain function had been reduced to just above that of someone with special needs and he was advised to retire.
"Things got so bad I couldn't even remember my pin number - my card got swallowed up twice. My memory was shot," Hape told the New Zealand Herald. "The specialist explained that my brain was so traumatised, had swollen so big, that even just getting a tap to the body would knock me out. I had to retire immediately.
"I was thinking I'd rest for a year and then make a come back. That's why I never told anyone I was retired. I still couldn't accept it was over.
Hape, who won 13 caps for England, felt symptoms such as constant migraines, sensitivity to light and sound, irritability, depression and memory loss.
"There was constant pressure from the coaches [to play]," he said. "Most coaches don't care what happens later on in your life. It's about the here and now. Everyone wants success. They just think, 'If we pay you this you are going to do this'. Players are just pieces of meat. When the meat gets too old and past its use by date, the club just buys some more."
Hape also claimed that players regularly manipulate cognitive tests that are designed to monitor their brain functions throughout the season.
"In England it is a standard procedure for all players to perform a computerised pre-season head test. The test establishes a baseline score that you'll have to match later in the season if you cop a head knock.
"The problem with the test is that players can manipulate it by under-performing so that later if you have a head knock and you have to beat it you normally can.
"This is an issue people, particularly young players, need to know about. More people need to speak out about it, tell the truth if they are suffering. Most players won't, though, for fear of being thought of as soft or because of the financial pressures."
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