The Community Rugby Department of Leinster Rugby is currently engaged in delivering a Tag Rugby programme at the Rehabilitative Training Unit of The National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dun Laoghaire…

The ‘Next Stage’ Rehabilitative Training Programme is run by the Rehabilitative Training Unit (RTU) and is a training programme for adults with acquired brain injury. An acquired brain injury (ABI) is the term given to any injury to the brain sustained during a person’s life, i.e. an injury they were not born with.

ABI’s can occur as a result of:

– Trauma; road traffic accidents, assault, fall etc
– Stroke, brain haemorrhage, tumour
– Viral infection; meningitis etc
– Hypoxia (lack of oxygen to the brain)

The effects of brain injury are many and complex including cognitive difficulties, physical difficulties and behavioural difficulties. All aspects of a persons’ life can be affected following an ABI such as their ability to work, to live independently, to access the community independently and to plan and make decisions independently. These are some of the issues that are addressed in the Rehabilitative Training Unit.

The trainees of the RTU range in age from 18 upwards and are usually attending the programme for an average of 8 months while they work on achieving their individual goals. The Next Stage programme is a national programme with people attending the unit from all over the country. Those who live too far away to be able to commute are able to avail of the supervised on-site accommodation for the duration of their stay.

As part of their training programme, the trainees of the RTU participate in a sports module, the aims of which are to provide trainees with the opportunity to understand and demonstrate the basic theory, benefits, role and importance of sports and activity as part of a balanced healthy lifestyle. The module also aims to enhance and facilitate learning of appropriate behavioural, cognitive and physicals skills needed to participate in a group or individual activities within a safe and supervised environment.

As part of the Sports Module, Leinster Rugby has facilitated a four-week Tag rugby programme. The rugby programme enhances the sports module and affords the trainees the opportunity to further develop socialisation and teamwork skills needed for group activities.

Chris Jones of Leinster Rugby has been delivering the programme and commented, “As someone who is trained in Neuromuscular Physical Therapy I have a strong interest in the rehabilitation process and I jumped at the chance to be involved with the RTU. I’ve really enjoyed working with the trainees. It’s fantastic to work with such an enthusiastic group where everyone actively participates and I hope that the trainees have got as much out of it as I have.”

Feedback from the trainees on the rugby programme has also been very positive. One trainee reports; “I really enjoyed the rugby. It helped me work on my balance and coordination. It was also great to get to play sports in the outdoors again.”

This is particularly relevant to this young man who, before his accident, was very involved in sports, playing soccer for his county at underage level. Since his accident he has not yet been able to return to playing soccer at this level, but participating in the rugby programme has hugely boosted his confidence in his ability and helped him realise that a return to playing sports competitively or coaching could be a realistic goal for him.

Another young man who played Gaelic football, at a senior level for his local club, hopes to commence study in the area of sports possibly as a physiotherapy aide or gym assistant. The Leinster Rugby training afforded him the opportunity to re-engage with sports in a safe and supported environment. “It (the training) was really good craic and fun. It’s helping to improve my fitness and it was fun to be in a team with both men and women!”