Leeds Rhinos’ Kevin Sinfield keen to see further research on concussion

Kevin Sinfield has warned against making assumptions regarding any link between concussions suffered playing rugby league and neurodegenerative disease.

CONCERN: Leeds Rhinos director of rugby Kevin Sinfield. Picture by Paul Currie/SWpix.com

A study published last year found footballers were at a four-fold increased risk of dying from motor neurone disease than age-matched members of the population.

Sinfield, the Leeds director of rugby has seen his friend and former team-mate Rob Burrow’s battle with the disease at close quarters, with his diagnosis being confirmed a year ago.

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Since then Burrow has been confined to a wheelchair and lost the ability to talk naturally.

SUFFERING: Former Leeds Tykes' star Alix Popham, pictured with the Powergen Trophy at Twickenham in 2005.

Sinfield has also followed the stories of rugby union players Steve Thompson and Alix Popham, who he knew from their time at Rhinos sister club Leeds Tykes and who are now suffering from early onset dementia.

However, he insists there should be no knee-jerk reactions to pre-suppose the sport endangers players’ health without strong research.

“We need to do a lot more research on it,” he said.

“As a club at the Rhinos we’ve invested into some mouthguard technology to do with concussion. I think it’s really important that the whole area is researched properly and we get some answers rather than guess and try and make assumptions.

Kevin Sinfield MBE with Rob Burrow & his team after completing his run at Headingley Stadium on day 5 of his seven marathons in seven days fundraising challenge in aid of the MND Association. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com

“It’s really sad to see Steve Thompson, it’s really sad to see Alix Popham, they both played up at Leeds Tykes, when they were our sister club, so I have spent some time with both of them in the past, and it’s really tragic the story and the journey that both those players are on.”

Asked if it was something which preoccupied his current players, Sinfield said: “I don’t think so. It certainly wasn’t in my mind as a player. You understand some of the risks to your body when you play. 

“We need to do some research on it, we need to actually get the answers and make sure it’s thorough so we can make the necessary adjustments, if any are needed.”

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