What health changes occur in Māori males after retirement from playing rugby league? = He aha ngā huringa hauora e puta ana i roto i ngā tāne Māori i muri i te reti mai i te tākaro i te rīki whutupāoro? : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand
Māori male participation in rugby league is prolific at all levels in New Zealand; however rugby league has a high incidence of injury. The demands of the sport require players to be athletically fit, strong, and healthy during their playing careers. But does any health advantage remain once retired from participation?
This exploratory study is the first health study of Māori men who have retired from playing competitive rugby league in New Zealand. It uses mixed-methods within a Māori-centered approach producing research led by Māori that involves Māori, and is intended for the benefit of Māori. The mixed method approach creates both quantitative and qualitative data and evidence.
This study researched four groups of ex-players at increasing levels of engagement. One hundred and fifty-four Maori men were involved in the initial survey assessment. This survey was followed by a detailed analysis of 25 players who were assessed on multiple measures of health and physiology. This process was repeated 18 months later with 15 returning respondents and elaborated on (A) Physical well-being post-play; (B) Injuries experienced during play (through a retrospective analysis); (C) Self-assessed well-being; and (D) Change over time for a small group. Lastly 10 players took part in ‘kanohi ki te kanohi’ (face to face) interviews so the players could tell their own stories and their experience of the research in more detail.
As an exploratory study, this research sought to define the factors that contribute to the health status of Māori men who have retired from playing rugby league. The research tested the use of mixed methods to generate quantitative data from physical and physiological testing, results from self-reported health factors, such as rates of smoking and bodily pain, and the qualitative information about the men’s experiences in retirement and of the research experiences from semi structured interviews held kanohi ki te kanohi.
Four key findings come from the study;
1) The health disadvantage for Māori males is also seen in retired Rugby league players, in particular weight gain, pain;
2) Positive changes in repeated measures provide encouraging evidence;
3) Telling personal stories contributed significantly to the research by providing insight into the thinking and experiences of the participants - Whānau (family) was a strong feature in the stories from these men. Most importantly it confirms there is strong potential for intervention to improve and maintain health status for retiring and retired Māori rugby league players, and;
4) The presence of a Māori researcher can positively influence engagement with Māori-centered research.
Results yielded evidence of a positive reduction in body weight, improved cardiovascular fitness and increased motivation in some players simply through their participation in this research, possibly through the Hawthorne or observer effect.
This research explored a previously under-researched area and provided insight into Māori male health. It informs an on-going agenda of health related, rugby research by providing a needed Māori voice and evidence.
Material removed from thesis for copyright reasons:
Appendix 14 - King, D., Hume, P., Gissane, C., & Clark, T. (2017). Semi-professional rugby league players have higher concussion risk than professional or amateur participants: A pooled analysis. Sports Medicine, 47(2), 197-205. doi: 10.1007/s40279-016-0576-z
Appendix 15 - King, D., Gissane, C., & Clark, T. (2013). Concussion in amateur rugby league players in New Zealand: A review of player concussion history. New Zealand Journal of Sports Medicine, 40(2), 64-69.
Appendix 16 - King, D., Hume, P., & Clark, T. (2012). Nature of tackles that result in injury in professional rugby league. Research in Sports Medicine, 20(2), 86-104. doi: 10.1080/15438627.2012.660824