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41% of Ireland's rugby players report symptoms of performance-related anxiety or depression

“Players are putting themselves under huge pressure and not dealing with it properly,” says Tadhg Furlong.

The survey was carried out by Rugby Players Ireland.
The survey was carried out by Rugby Players Ireland.
Image: Inpho

OVER 40% OF the professional rugby players in Ireland have reported symptoms of performance-related anxiety and/or depression, according to a study released this week.

The survey was carried out by the representative body for Ireland’s professional rugby players, Rugby Players Ireland, and was led by an international team led by Dr Vincent Gouttebarge of Fifpro.

The results showed as many as 41.7% of players have reported symptoms of performance-related anxiety and/or depression, while only 3% say they never worry about how they play.

Furthermore, 93% admitted they worry about team selection and 70% are concerned about life after rugby.

“When you’re playing professional rugby, the stakes are always high,” Ireland international Tadhg Furlong said.

“Almost without realising it, players are putting themselves under huge pressure and not dealing with it properly. Over time some of these things can build up.”

In light of the findings, Rugby Players Ireland, in association with Zurich, are increasing the mental health services on offer to players with one-one-one counselling sessions and access to online programmes available to players.

“Everybody is excited for the new season ahead, but there can also be a bit of tension,” Furlong added.

“A lot can change over the summer. The younger lads will have developed, new guys are brought in. In some ways, you have to prove yourself all over again and show the coaches that you’re worth your place. You hope there’ll be plenty of good days ahead, but there will be times when you’re not selected, you pick up an injury or you just have a bad game. Nobody knows how the season will go.”

Commenting on the survey, CEO of Rugby Players Ireland, Simon Keogh, said: “Players find themselves on a stage every week and have their playing performance publicly scrutinised. This in itself can heap a huge amount of pressure on an individual. We have worked with Zurich Ireland to put the best resources in place for our members should they need them.”

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