French rugby players call for independent doctors

2016-01-19 18:21

Paris - France's professional rugby players on Tuesday demanded independent doctors be employed to "cut the cord" with their clubs amid fears their health and careers are being put at risk.

In a sport where revenues are booming, players are worried they are risking serious long-term injury with club doctors sometimes bowing to the hierarchy.

"The players are worried, asking questions about their health, the frantic pace, the rate," explained Montpellier's Cameroonian lock Robins Tchale-Watchou.

"All that means an increase in injuries," said Tchale-Watchou, who is president of the Professional Players' Union Provale.

"We had stories from players like (Abdel) Boutaty (of Pau) who talk of their battle with injury. They have trouble coming back, the desire is there but the body doesn't follow.

"Indicators from the World Cup are quite alarming," added Provale vice-president Antoine Battut, who plays for Top 14 side Toulouse. "Because of that, we're trying to react to protect ourselves."

According to Tchale-Watchou, the number of players who have lost their professional rugby licence because of injury has almost tripled in eight years.

"The number and the seriousness of injuries is growing. Insurers got back to us early in the season to review the base of compensation. If they come back, it's that there is a shortfall for them somewhere."

He said Provale were looking for a panel of independent doctors -- not paid for by the clubs -- to judge the seriousness of injuries and the duration for which players will be sidelined.

Tchale-Watchou said: "Club doctors agree that if they want to practise medicine as they want there is at times a conflict between their recommendations and club requirements.

"We must therefore cut the cord, this hierarchal relationship between the doctor and the employer.

"We're going to try to propose this year (a list) of referring physicians for all the different injuries.

"We'll try to find the best practitioners and to conclude agreements with them so that players have a second opinion."

The Cameroonian player added that progress had been made with the National Rugby League (LNR).

"Through the players' questions, the LNR president (Paul Goze) really realised that the lack of binding regulations leaves a kind of vacuum and gives rise to a series of bad practices.

"The only question we have is the cost. Who will pay? We're going to continue to work on this with the League."

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