Over 40% of Irish rugby players suffer symptoms of performance related anxiety or depression

A survey has revealed that over 40% of professional Irish rugby players have reported symptoms of performance related anxiety and or depression, writes Ciara Phelan.

The study carried out by the representative body for Ireland’s professional rugby players, Rugby Players Ireland and led by former French professional footballer turned medical scientist, DR Vincent Gouttebarge, shows nearly 42% of players experience anxiety over how they will perform in games.

Just 3% said they never worry about how they play.

Ireland's Tadhg Furlong following their victory in the RBS Six Nations Rugby Championship match between Italy and Ireland in February. Pic: Sportsfile.

93% admitted they worry about team selection and 70% of players are concerned about their lives after rugby.

Commenting on the new figures, international rugby star Tadhg Furlong has said players are putting themselves under pressure without realising or dealing with it properly.

"When you’re playing professional rugby, the stakes are always high,” said Furlong.

“Almost without realising it, players are putting themselves under huge pressure and not dealing with it properly. Over time some of these things can build up.”

Rugby Players Ireland, in association with Zurich insurance are offering increased mental health services for players with one-to-one counselling sessions and also have online programmes available to players.

Zurich's Tackle your Feelings initiative aims to reduce the stigma around mental health and provide people with the tools and resources to be more proactive in looking after their emotional wellbeing.

“Everybody is excited for the new season ahead, but there can also be a bit of tension," said Furlong.

"A lot can change over the summer. The younger lads will have developed, new guys are brought in. In some ways, you have to prove yourself all over again and show the coaches that you’re worth your place.

"You hope there’ll be plenty of good days ahead, but there will be times when you’re not selected, you pick up an injury or you just have a bad game. Nobody knows how the season will go.”

CEO of Rugby Players Ireland, Simon Keogh has said players often find themselves being publicly scrutinised.

“Players find themselves on a stage every week and have their playing performance publicly scrutinised," he said.

"This in itself can heap a huge amount of pressure on an individual. We have worked with Zurich Ireland to put the best resources in place for our members should they need them.”

By Ciara Phelan

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