Buck brought back to front major study

NEIL REID
Last updated 05:00 09/12/2012
Buck Shelford
BRUCE JARVIS/Photosport

TOP FORM: At the peak of his fitness, Buck Shelford leads the haka for the All Blacks against Argentina match in Dunedin in 1989.

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A team of sports medicine experts have done what the All Blacks selectors refused to do and have brought back Buck.

The rugby great has signed on as an official ambassador for a major study looking at the long-term injury toll rugby has on players of all levels, as well as identifying ways to improve welfare offered to ex-players. Shelford's role comes 22 years after he played the last of his 22 tests.

The study is being headed by Professor Patria Hume, from Auckland University of Technology, Dr Ken Quarrie from the New Zealand Rugby Union and Dr Martin Raftery from the International Rugby Board.

"Buck is one of the ex-All Blacks who has put his name forward in terms of helping promote the study, particularly because of his recent Buck Up book in terms of men's health," Hume said.

"He is very keen to lend his name to this project and help promote it, in terms of neurological effects and men's health."

Shelford's book, Buck Up, The Real Guide to Getting Healthy and Living Longer, charts his health battles - including cancer - and aims to promote healthier lifestyles for Kiwi men.

In February a TV documentary will screen highlighting the study, including Shelford undergoing scientific testing.

The study hopes to recruit 600 former players, from All Blacks to club level, as well as former cricketers.

Hume said he wanted players who had suffered onfield knocks as well as those who had escaped relatively unscathed.

The study - which was launched in August - is being funded by the IRB and involves the New Zealand Rugby Union and New Zealand Cricket.

"What the IRB, the NZRU and NZC want to get out of it is kind of a description of the current state of retired rugby players," Hume said.

"They want to see if there are issues. Then they want to be able to put in strategies to help people.

"The first thing is preventing the injuries or the health impacts to start off with, but then also . . . how we manage those injuries."

That included whether there was a link between concussion and depression. "Say we find there is an increased amount of depression because of the increased risk of concussions, then what are the support mechanisms in place to help those players with depression," Hume said.

"With depression, is there an increased alcohol consumption, there might be increased drug use or social issues with the family. There are a whole list of things we are interested in that may have been side-effects or the cause from the concussion."

Two parts of the study are online. Participants can also take part in two further testing procedures at AUT's Akoranga Campus on Auckland's North Shore.

Hume said it was expected that findings from the study would be reported back to the NZRU, IRB and NZC by the end of May.

To take part in the study, phone 0800 288 784 or visit sprinz.aut.ac.nz

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