Former Bradford Bulls centre Shontayne Hape has announced his retirement from rugby after sustaining repeated concussions that led to a range of debilitating symptoms, including depression.
Hape, who enjoyed Grand Final success with Bulls before switching codes, played his final match for French club Montpellier last year, but only this weekend revealed he was forced to hang up his boots because of the head trauma incurred during his league and union careers.
The 33-year-old, who won 13 caps for England between 2010-11, suffered more than 20 concussions and was frequently knocked out, including several times in succession during the 2012-13 season at Montpellier.
Subsequent scans revealed his brain function had been reduced to just above that of someone with special needs and he was advised to retire.
“Things got so bad I couldn’t even remember my pin number - my card got swallowed up twice. My memory was shot,” Hape told the New Zealand Herald.
“The specialist explained that my brain was so traumatised, had swollen so big, that even just getting a tap to the body would knock me out. I had to retire immediately.
“I was thinking I’d rest for a year and then make a come back. That’s why I never told anyone I was retired. I still couldn’t accept it was over.”
Among the symptoms Auckland-born Hape felt were constant migraines, sensitivity to light and sound, irritability, depression and memory loss.
“There was constant pressure from the coaches (to play),” the former New Zealand Warriors, Bath and London Irish back said.
“Most coaches don’t care what happens later on in your life. It’s about the here and now. Everyone wants success.
“They just think, ‘If we pay you this you are going to do this’. Players are just pieces of meat.
“When the meat gets too old and past its use by date, the club just buys some more.”
Hape joined the Bulls in 2002 and helped them win the Grand Final in 2003 and 2005 before switching codes in 2008 when he joined Bath.