Rugby Blindside recently spoke with Karen Hood, Head of the IPF, who told us about the work they do in helping rugby players affected by catastrophic injuries.
Can you tell us about what the Injured Players Foundation (IPF) is and what you do?
The RFU Injured Players Foundation (IPF), provides support to rugby players in England who sustain a catastrophic injury playing the game and help prevent future injuries through vital research.
The IPF’s assistance is available to any player, from grassroots up to professional level, to empower them to lead their lives as fully and independently as they are able to. They are there for the player, their family, friends and clubs immediately after injury and for the rest of their lives.
The IPF are continually funding research to better understand how the care of injured players can be improved and how we can all make the game of rugby safer; with the vision to allow everyone to play the game without catastrophic injuries occurring.
What is your role in the organisation and how did you get involved?
I’m the Head of the Charity, and actually helped to set it up in 2008 when the RFU took on a previous charity (SPIRE) that had been working in this area for a while and really enhanced the support that it was possible to give.
Over that time I’ve been able to see that rugby is much more confident about talking about injuries, the work the game is doing to prevent them and the support it gives to those most in need.
Where does the IPF get its funding from to help those affected by catastrophic injuries?
Our support comes from three main sources: Invested funds that SPIRE built up act as reserves for the charity; our immediate support work with injured players is funded directly by the RFU; but arguably the most important source of funding is the funds raised by the rugby community itself.
Rugby clubs run events to raise money for the IPF; or individuals take on challenges for us (I have joined in with these, as have some of the IPF’s Trustees), and our injured players also continue to inspire us by raising funds – through taking part in 10k and marathon events, hosting charity tournaments at their local club, or supporting our fundraising dinners and awareness activities by sharing their inspirational stories.
As well as financial aid, the IPF also funds research into catastrophic injuries. Can you provide some details about this initiative?
Our vision is for the game of rugby to be played without life-changing injuries happening. Whilst these injuries are very rare, one is one too many. We work with universities to investigate how and why these injures happen, and what (if anything) can be done to prevent them.
This work explores a number of directions, recently Bath University have been using computer modelling to simulate rugby injuries as well as working with Southampton University hospital to examine the injuries that have occurred with the aim of identifying any common factors that could be addressed.
Like most organisations in rugby the IPF relies on a team of volunteers. How important are the volunteers that help the foundation and how can someone get involved if they are interested?
We simply couldn’t operate without our wonderful volunteers. We have a group of 8 Trustees who give their time to make sure the charity is run effectively and achieves the most impact possible; also there is a fantastic group of Volunteer Liaison Officers who work in their local areas, keeping in regular contact with our injured players and making sure they remain a part of the rugby community. The injured players too are amazingly supportive; we work hard to make sure they are involved in setting the priorities for the IPF, getting involved in fundraising or research projects, offering peer support to other injured player and giving us regular feedback on what is needed so that we can be sure we’re focussed on the right work and delivering it in the right way.
Can you share with us a story of someone who was helped by the IPF?
Jack’s story: “The most important thing has been the personal approach, the IPF became our extended family.”
When he sustained a catastrophic injury playing rugby at 26, Jack was working as a sports injury
specialist. His working and rugby playing life was in Wimbledon when he was airlifted to an intensive care unit and trauma centre near Brighton and his family were called.
“Within 12 hours the IPF were at my bedside, giving emotional support to my family and girlfriend. In that situation everyone is in melt down and they were our go to people for everything we needed.
“The most important thing has been the personal approach, the IPF became our extended family,” says Jack who is currently living with his parents in Wiltshire while planning for the future, his flat in London being completely inaccessible. Jack was hospitalised for eight months.
“The IPF covered everything, from family travel to accommodation so that they could be near me to helping with my transfer to Stoke Mandeville and getting me in touch with the physios and occupational therapists there.
“Whether it’s sorting the correct chair or vehicle for me, equipment to get back to work, or extra rehabilitation to improve my mobility, the IPF is involved.
“Without them I would have an NHS budget allowing me an hour’s generic physio a week but thanks to extra rehab with IPF partners Hobbs I have been receiving nine hours weekly with two or three neuro specialists working with me at the same time. This is making a huge difference.
“I had no idea how much the charity did for someone seriously injured playing rugby and the help I have been given is substantial and far outweighs what I might have anticipated.
But it’s not just what that help is, it’s the way it has been given, they have become real family, friends and remain the ones I can go to for help and advice on everything.”
What are your future plans for the IPF in how it continues to develop and help players in the game?
We need to make sure we can be there for the players who need us for the rest of their lives. As statutory resources are stretched ever thinner, the NHS and Local Authority support is often not enough to help someone live truly independently, and that’s where the IPF can step in to fill the gaps and help people achieve their ambitions.
New work investigating how players can be better supported with their mental health wellbeing and resilience is also being investigated to further improve the independence and quality of life for all those supported by the charity.
We will also continue to work with the RFU, world rugby and other rugby charities around the world to reduce the risk of serious injury within the game.
And finally, how can a player get in touch with the IPF and receive support?
They can reach us by a number of different ways:
General enquiries: 020 8831 7693
Freephone Number for injured players: 0800 783 1518
Email enquiries: IPF@therfu.com
Grant enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
This article appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of Rugby Blindside magazine – Read the full issue here