Professional Rugby Players with Disability

As leading providers of disability care on the Gold Coast, our role is enabling and supporting our clients to access life in just the same way as anyone else might. So we always love to hear stories of people overcoming and working with a disability while not letting it stop them from living their dreams. It may surprise you to learn that several high-profile rugby players also have disabilities.

Jonah Lomu

Perhaps one of the most famous players of all time, Jonah Lomu, actually suffered from a kidney disorder that was diagnosed in 1995. Nephrotic syndrome can be devastating, and the impact on his career was quite significant. In 2003 he started the process of dialysis, and he had a kidney transplant in 2004. He did go on to play again but not at an international level, and announced his retirement from rugby in 2007. Sadly Lomu died after suffering a heart attack attributable to his condition in 2015.

Ian McKinley

In 2010 while playing for University College Dublin, Ian McKinley lost sight in one eye. He was kicked by a boot in a random accident which left him with diminished sight in his left eye. Determined to keep following his dream and playing the game he loved, he returned to the pitch and continues to excel.

Lewis Moody

Lewis Moody was once the captain of the England rugby team, and in 2005 he discovered that he had ulcerative colitis, which is a condition that causes the bowels to become inflamed. It can be very devastating on life, and although he has now retired from rugby, he raises awareness for the condition on behalf of the UK charity Crohn’s and Colitis UK. Over 260,000 people suffer from the condition in the UK alone.

Harry Slade

Type one diabetes is a challenging disease and is usually managed by insulin. It is defined as a disability because it can have a long-term and negative impact on the life of a person with the disease. However, it has not stopped Exeter Chiefs player Harry Slade who signed with his club in the same year as he discovered he was a diabetic at the age of 18.

Jodie Ounsley

Another Exeter star is Jodie Ounsley was born premature and profoundly deaf. At the age of 14 months, she had a cochlear implant fitted which enabled her to hear some of the world around her. Initially, her parents were told that life would be very challenging and that she may struggle to find work, gain an education or even speak. But she has proved them all wrong and plays with her cochlear implant protected by her helmet.

Ellis Genge

Dyspraxia is a movement disorder that can affect the ability to write, walk, move and speak. However, Ellis Genge, a prop for both Leicester and England, has overcome the challenges of his diagnosis and now supports children in a similar position. He feels it’s important that others received the support he did on his quest to become picked for the England rugby team and play at the World Cup.

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