Rugby players have higher risk of brain damage

I long ago stopped watching American football games for two main reasons. One is how the greedy and wealthy owners pressure local communities, that often need the money for essential services, to build them luxury stadiums by threatening to move their teams elsewhere if they do not. The latest such gouging is in Buffalo, NY.

The Buffalo Bills reached an agreement Monday with New York State and Erie County to build a new $1.4 billion state-of-the-art, open-air stadium in Orchard Park, New York. Under the 30-year lease, the public will provide $850 million to fund construction costs while the state of New York is expected to contribute $600 million and Erie County $250 million toward the project (per The Buffalo News). 

Groundbreaking for the stadium is set for Spring 2023 with it set to open in time for the 2026 season. The Bills will pay $350 million toward the stadium and will get a $200 million loan from the NFL through the league’s G-4 loan program. The stadium is estimated to hold around 62,000 fans.

The other reason is the damage that American football players suffer to their brains due to the repeated hard collisions they encounter in competitive play and in practices.

Now the other show has dropped and evidence is emerging that rugby players also suffer brain damage in the form of motor neurone disease (MND).

Rugby union has been urged to cut back on competitive matches and stop contact training sessions altogether during the season following a landmark study which found the risk of motor neurone disease among Scottish international players was 15 times higher than the general population.

The research, which compared 412 former Scotland internationals born between 1900 and 1990 to over 1,200 non-players with the same age, area and socioeconomic status, also found that the rugby players – all male – were twice as likely to get dementia and more than three times likely to get Parkinson’s disease.

Dr Willie Stewart, a consultant neuropathologist at the University of Glasgow who led the study, said that the MND figure was alarming and warned that the issue of brain damage in rugby could be even worse in 20 years’ time.

“Contact training during the week, during the competition season, should be pretty much a thing of the past. At the same time look at the number of matches that are being played – is it credible that young men and young women are playing week‑in, week-out for the majority of the year just for entertainment and is there a way we can trim back on that? Things like that have to be addressed pretty rapidly.”

I have long argued that American football should be banned at the K-12 and college level because doing damage to students’ brains is incompatible with the educational mission. At the very least, at every level, all hard tackling and collisions should be banned at practices to minimize the number of impacts, since it is the number of such collisions that is key. That recommendation should be extended to rugby as well.


  1. says

    Under the 30-year lease, the public will provide $850 million to fund construction costs while the state of New York is expected to contribute $600 million and Erie County $250 million toward the project (per The Buffalo News).

    How do they distinguish “the public” from “the state of NY” and “Erie County?” Are they selling bonds to the public?

  2. moarscienceplz says

    Raging Bee, I’m guessing that refers to proceeds from ticket sales and licensing fees. Probably they call that money from “the public” rather than the Buffalo Bills or the NFL because some revenue will be generated from non-football sources, such as concerts.

  3. bargearse says

    Raging Bee@1 & moarscienceplz@2

    That confused me too until I added it up and realised it’s just really shitty writing. The $850 mill in public funds is made up of the $600mill from the state & $250 mill from the county. Add that to the $350 mill from the team and the $200 mill loan and you get the $1.4 billion total. The ‘while’ in the second sentence makes it sound like the state & county funds are additional to rather than compromising the public funds.

  4. Deepak Shetty says

    Now the other show has dropped

    Given that modern sports is more about the show then the sport itself I cant make out whether this is a clever turn of phrase or a typo (shoe)

  5. says

    I looked at the Buffalo News article from which the article cited here got its information:

    And it turns out bargearse is right:

    The Bills would get a new $1.4 billion home with New York State and Erie County footing $850 million of the upfront cost to build it…
    New York is slated to contribute $600 million and Erie County $250 million toward construction.

    So, no public bond issue here, unless either NY or Erie County decide to sell bonds later to pay for their end of the deal.

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