In rugby, awareness of player concussions

The figures are alarming. According to a study by a team from the University of Glasgow, in October 2022, former rugby players are two and a half times more likely than the general population to develop neurodegenerative diseases. The researchers looked at 412 former Scottish rugby internationals before comparing them to 1,200 people from the general population. They reveal, for example, that the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease is three times higher.

In recent decades, professional rugby has shifted towards a more physical and faster game. Players have gained muscle mass, making shocks particularly violent, and concussions more frequent. But until a few years ago, few people took into account the severity and duration of symptoms. “There has always been this tradition, like in war: if you haven’t had your face torn off by a shell, it’s because you’re fit for combat. Looking more closely, we realize that it is still much more complex »analyzes Jean-François Chermann, neurologist, specialist in France for concussions in athletes.

Changing mindsets

According to this amateur player, rugby is not dangerous, but should be practiced with caution. This requires medical supervision, at all levels, which he helped to put in place. “We voted for the HIA criteria in 2013”, he recalls. These evaluation criteria following a head injury, dubbed “concussion protocol” in France, were developed to “Improve the management of head injuries”especially in cases where “the diagnosis is not immediately apparent”, says World Rugby. In addition to this medical framework, there is a framework for the rules. “There has been a total reform on the entry into the scrum, or on the way of making the keys, for example”, reminds the specialist.

Finally, the doctor notes a precious change in mentalities. “At the time, we had a real underestimation of the troubles, the players did not want to hear about it and participated in this omerta. »

The amateur world must progress

Since then, many cases of players having attacked their clubs in court for negligence have contributed to this increased vigilance by sports authorities. Last case to date, the rugby player Alexandre Lapandry, who suffers from the after-effects of a stroke following shocks. In December 2022, he filed several complaints against ASM Clermont-Auvergne, in particular for endangering the lives of others.

The evolutions of professional rugby must now spread to the amateur world. Today, 50% of concussed athletes, all sports combined, remain on the playing area. In rugby, since the HIA protocols, this figure has fallen from 50% to 18%. Other initiatives are emerging: the neurosurgeon David Brauge has established a protocol, after a concussion, intended for all general practitioners. The idea is to rely on this local network of caregivers accessible to all amateurs in the country.



Sport: when the search for performance damages the body of athletes

Run faster, jump higher, shoot harder. Pushing your body, and sometimes your mind, always further, in search of the ultimate performance. The daily life of a high-level athlete, punctuated by training and restricted by dietary requirements, creates a very unique relationship with the body.

“The athlete’s body is his work tool”, recalls Mathieu Sissler, sports psychologist. However, winning at all costs has its share of consequences, and athletes run the risk of jeopardizing their physical and mental health. “It’s been proven: intense daily practice induces premature aging of the joints. We no longer count, for example, the operations of top athletes for defective cruciate ligaments”, adds the mental trainer.

Physical and psychological risk taking

To prevent these long-term lesions, doctors and psychologists play a key role in supporting athletes. But when they are launched in a race for records, how to convince them to take it easy or even slow down, so as not to cause irreversible physical injuries? ” It’s not always obvious, admits Mathieu Sissler. Among young athletes, we sometimes hear speeches like “If I have a medal, I can die in peace.” By stopping them in their tracks, we go against their dreams. »

“When you are 15, 16 or 17, the future seems far away. We don’t think about what comes next, adds Martin Ducret, sports doctor at the National Institute of Sport, Expertise and Performance (Insep). It’s our role to warn, even if it gives us a party pooper label. » Thinking of being slowed down in their progress, “Some athletes practice what is called medical nomadism: they go to see another doctor who will perhaps go more in their direction. »

For Élise Anckaert, head of the sports psychology unit at Insep, “A quest for performance also translates into a psychological risk, in particular of depression: limiting the athlete too much, telling him not to cross this or that level so as not to injure himself, we can demotivate him”. To accompany them well, she adds, it is necessary “Above all, present them with the factors that can alert and protect them. It is then up to them to evolve knowingly. It is the principle of the acrobat on his wire: our role is to help the sportsman and to help his body, to remain in balance, in a situation of imbalance”.

The weight of the surroundings

Certain figures in high-level sport reflect the consequences of this search for performance at all costs. “When you look at Rafael Nadal, you see a very great champion. But the reality is that he is already suffering a lot physically, with repeated injuries and a risk of suffering for the rest of his life, says Mathieu Sissler. It wouldn’t be surprising if he lived on corticosteroids for many years. This is the hidden side of the job. »

Recently, during the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the Brazilian Neymar, victim of a sprain in the first match, returned to the field in the round of 16, less than a fortnight after his injury, when this guy injury usually requires three to four weeks of rest. “The Brazilian medical staff took a big risk by accelerating the recovery process”believes Martin Ducret.

Does the pressure come from the athlete’s entourage? “In reality, it’s quite rare for athletes to do more than what is asked of them. The problem often comes from coaches who are less aware of the risks and who see, in front of them, young people ready to do anything to surpass themselves,” believes Mathieu Sissler. Doctors, physiotherapists or osteopaths can set limits. “When an athlete has a sprain, the idea is to know until when he will be unavailable. But the bigger and richer the club, the more pressure there will be on the doctor’s shoulders. »

Prevention and follow-up

Often constrained by economic realities and in search of champions and performances, sports federations have not yet taken the full measure of the necessary physical and mental support., believes Mathieu Sissler. “Awareness of physical risks is growing, but there is a lack of real reflection, which is very current, to help the athlete manage his body over time”he argues.

“Prevention is not lacking now within the federations. Some, like the swimming, golf or tennis federation, are undoubtedly more advanced than others but, overall, everyone is progressing”, observes Élise Anckaert. According to the specialist, mental support and psychological prevention have become more democratic over the past ten years.

This development is accompanied by technological innovation, in particular by progress made in medical imaging. Developed as a diagnostic tool, this technique is used to better understand how the body works. The Bachaumont imaging center in Paris is a reference in the pathology of athletes. And, yet, ” Iasports medicine is not yet a specialty as such, it is a superspecialization, recalls Martin Ducret. But I think it will be! »


Insep, the factory of graduate champions

The National Institute for Sport, Expertise and Performance (Insep) offers diploma courses, initial and continuous, adapted to the needs and constraints of high-level sport.

The results of Insep’s “double project” led to exceptional results in 2022: 100% success in the baccalaureate and 78% of mentions; 88% success rate in the BTS Operational Commercial Management (MCO); 100% success rate for professional training related to sports professions; and 86% success rate for post-baccalaureate training.



In England, the “greenest football club in the world”

In the south of England evolves a very particular football club. Playing in League One, the third English division, the Forest Green Rovers are considered to be one of the most advanced sports organizations in terms of ecology. Awarded by the UN in 2019 as the “the greenest club in the world”he relies, among other things, on his pesticide-free lawn, his solar panels and his 100% vegan canteen to confirm his notoriety.

A club recognized for its action

British Commonwealth Sports Minister from 2020 to 2022, Nigel Huddleston did not fail to salute the club’s unprecedented efforts: “Forest Green Rovers have rightly been recognized by the United Nations and Fifa as pioneers among eco-responsible football clubs, and it is great to see their initiatives being adopted within the League,” he rejoiced in November 2021, during a meeting preceding COP26, in Glasgow. “These initiatives put football clubs forward, demonstrating their actions for the planet. »

It remains to be seen whether this virtuous model can be reproduced elsewhere. “Not all clubs have a wealthy man at their head who is aware and invested in ecological issues as is the case for Forest Green Rovers”, warns Antoine Miche, president of the Football Ecology France association, which campaigns for ecological football. While pointing out that money is not what is missing in football. “Since it’s there, you might as well use it for good reasons”, he pleads.

A possibility and even a duty in the eyes of the president of Forest Green Rovers, Dale Vince. “Business and business got us in this mess (ecological). So business has to get us out of it”, he launched in November 2021 in a promotional video.

Combining sports results and environmental results

In twenty-five years, the wealthy entrepreneur, who built his empire in the wind sector, has seen mentalities change. “When I started twenty-five years ago, you couldn’t even buy green energy in the world,” he remembers in an interview given to the British media The New European. “Today it’s everywhere and the technology has matured, it’s become the cheapest form of energy we can produce. The last frontier in solving sustainable development issues lies in political decision-making. »

While political will is essential, some club and league leaders fear that environmental issues will take precedence over sporting issues. Wrongly, according to Antoine Miche. “Forest Green Rovers have proven that you can achieve positive sporting and non-sporting results in the sameno time, underlines the president of the Football Ecology France association. Each year, the club progresses by climbing into a higher league while remaining true to its image of the greenest club in the world. »



Are major sporting events compatible with environmental issues?

► “Stop the race for ever more disproportionate events”

Arnaud Gauffier, director of programs at WWF France

Like any human activity, sport has an impact on the environment, but the multiplication of sporting events combined with the race for scale maximizes the consequences. They cause mass air travel, to and between the sites where the events take place. They consume huge amounts of material and energy resources.

Will the pressure exerted on the environment lead us to eliminate major events and limit ourselves to local or national competitions? Coming to such extremes would be a loss and a failure that we cannot resolve. Especially since the solutions exist: benchmark sporting events are already demonstrating this through actions that, in particular, reduce the environmental footprint.

These first signals form the basis of a movement that must extend and reach all circles of the sports and events ecosystem, the model of which must be thoroughly redesigned around three axes: less, better and differently.

We must do less: stop the race for ever more disproportionate events, eliminate useless or redundant competitions, reduce the number of teams and athletes involved in the events, but also avoid aberrations such as ski slopes on sites that have never seen snow or grassy pitches where it doesn’t rain…

We must also do better: mobilize exclusively virtuous means (eco-construction, energy sobriety, circular economy, sustainable mobility, etc.) and become a benchmark for other sectors.

Finally, we must do otherwise: involve all the players, including sponsors and public decision-makers. The environmental imperative must be integrated into the model of major sporting events as a contributory lever rather than being considered as a brake.

Failing to implement the appropriate actions, the consequences of climate change will not fail to impose themselves on sports practice at all levels – school, amateur, professional – and make us pay the price of inaction. The rise in temperatures can, on its own, impact the performance of athletes and endanger their health, cause a population to lose up to 2 months of sports practice and condemn certain sports sites and equipment, in particular nautical.

There is still time to act to honor the motto which, beyond Olympism, inspires all competitors and unites human communities in the love of sport. Yes, the time has come to do “less, better and differently” to, together, continue to go “faster, higher, stronger”

► “Encourage reasonable candidates”

Vincent Chaudelsports economist and Vice-President of the Sport and Citizenship think tank

In essence, major international competitions generate the travel of athletes, their supervision and, most often, the arrival of national media and fans. It is difficult in these conditions to make them exemplary events in environmental terms. Victims of their success, they continue to grow and therefore increase their need for infrastructure, travel and consumables.

As for sports bodies, their interest is to develop their geographical and media coverage via these meetings for which they ensure that there is always a “legacy”. Too often, this objective translates into stone: a stadium, a swimming pool, an arena, an airport… But in the face of geopolitical tensions, it is difficult to deprive yourself of their symbolic and peaceful significance.

More than responsible candidacies, reasonable candidacies should be favored. If Fifa had asked Qatar to share the organization of the 22e World Cup with one of its neighbours, there might have been fewer stadiums and hotels to build and therefore less pressure and controversy. The ideal would be to designate one or more host countries with only a few new buildings to build. In this, Paris 2024 could well become a benchmark for major international sporting events.



Greener stadiums, is it possible?

What could be less ecological than a stadium welcoming tens of thousands of supporters for a sporting event? A Ligue 1 match alone generates around ten tonnes of waste; to water lawns, millions of cubic meters of water are needed every year; and hundreds of tons of CO2 are issued to transport the public to each day of the championship.

While eyes will turn in a few days to the air-conditioned stadiums erected by Qatar for the World Cup, some structures in France are already trying to green. With their hybrid lawns, the installation of photovoltaic panels on the roofs or even a rainwater recovery system, they claim eco-responsible behavior.

A growing awareness

Model clubs in terms of sustainable development? Antoine Miche, president of the Football Ecology France association, seems skeptical. “We can of course cite Lorient, which has bet on geothermal energy, or the stadiums of Lyon and Nice, which are renowned for their water recovery system. In reality, they all have their particularity, but not enough to be set up as a model”, emphasizes this specialist. While hoping that the Brest stadium, which should undergo a considerable renovation in the next few years, will be an exception.

“Overall, we can feel a growing awareness in clubs and leagues on environmental issues, believes the former international rugby player Julien Pierre, himself very committed to this subject. But their willingness to take responsibility is not enough. “85% of the stadiums belong to the communities, the effort must come from the top”, he believes.

It remains to pay the price. But today, cities do not provide sufficient resources to properly renovate sports arenas, according to Antoine Miche. “Investments to make stadiums greener run into tens of millions of euros. Cities that are in favor of it often find themselves confronted with a metropolis that does not want it; Or vice versa. Difficult, under these conditions, to obtain sufficient subsidies”, he laments.

Hybrid lawn versus artificial lawn

Despite these political uncertainties, Bertrand Picard, founder of Natural Grass, the French leader in the construction of high-level hybrid lawns, wants to believe that the world of sport will change. “We are constantly approached by clubs looking for solutions to adapt to climate change and to reduce their environmental footprint, he testifies. Our customers are a reflection of society: clubs and leagues obviously want to reduce their environmental impact, but to do so they need solutions that work. »

The hybrid turf specialist speaks with knowledge, because the technology it develops partly embodies the future of stadiums. By hybrid lawn, understand a 100% natural lawn, rooted in a substrate reinforced at the level of the roots by less than 1% of synthetic fibers, kinds of artificial roots allowing a better anchoring of the lawn. The opposite of synthetic turf, made up of 100% plastic materials.

“Hybrid lawns also allow their neighbors to benefit from the benefits of natural grass: combating heat islands through evapotranspiration (the lawn becomes a real natural air conditioner)CO capture2(up to 15 tons per year)dust filtration, retention and filtering of storm water, biodiversity…”, adds Bertrand Picard. According to him, the additional economic cost“about 20%”is offset by lower maintenance costs over the long term.

Access to the stadium, the construction site of tomorrow

For two years, an environmental label, the first in the sports field, certifies the commitment of clubs in terms of ecology. Created by Julien Pierre, Fair Play for Planet defends an economic and social development model concerned with the environment through 350 criteria. Among them, that of the accessibility of sports arenas: “The big subject of tomorrow’s stadiums lies in how to get there”, says the former professional player.

Focusing on carpooling and the accessibility of public transport, the latter regrets that many stadiums are far from urban centers. Although some clubs have set up reduced fares, or even free access, for access to public transport on match nights, the share of spectators coming to the stadium by this means does not exceed 9%, according to figures from the think Sport and citizenship tank.

Sporting events, accelerators of change?

At a time when most observers point to the environmental aberration of the World Cup in Qatar, Julien Pierre calls for a more global reflection on the holding of major sporting events. “Perhaps we should think about regionalizing things, doing less but better, he suggests. The world of sport represents only 1% of greenhouse gas emissions, but it has an exceptional power of communication. You have to surf on it. »

On the Qatar side, the carbon footprint presented by FIFA, equivalent to 3.6 million tonnes of CO2, is once again contested. According to calculations by the company specializing in the assessment of the carbon footprint of major events, Greenly, the competition should release the equivalent of 6 million tonnes into the atmosphere. A result almost twice that envisaged by the international federation. Infrastructure alone represents 27% of the carbon footprint, according to the study.


A heavy environmental impact

According to a study by the online media Youmatter, it is necessary to count:

100,000 kWh of electricity to light a stadium for one match, i.e. the consumption of 20 households in one year.

36 million liters of water for the maintenance of the lawn of the Stade de France for one year. This equates to 720,000 ten-minute showers.

60 tonnes of CO2for car travel by one-third of supporters to an enclosure of more than 30,000 people, for one year. This is the fuel consumption for six round-the-world trips by car.



Handisport: solutions developed for recreational skiing

Initially, it was the adaptation of a verticalizer, a device used in hospitals to allow patients to straighten up. In fifteen years, over the course of improvements, the machine became the Gotoski, a snow scooter invented by Marc Gostoli, an instructor from La Plagne (Savoie) who wanted to offer disabled people the possibility of hurtling down standing tracks, even if they have cerebral palsy.

The machine on skis, equipped with a handlebar, is articulated. “The mechanical system makes it possible to reproduce the eight movements of the valid ski, such as edge grips on the right and on the leftexplains Fabienne Durand, president of the Association for the development of adapted physical activities in Cerdagne-Capcir (Adapacc), which offers this equipment in the station of Angles (Pyrénées-Orientales). By turning the head and shoulders, you can initiate a turn. »

“At the bottom, some are crying with emotion”

The invention is intended for all those who can stand on their legs, even without being able to walk. “This represents 75% of people with disabilities”, indicates the association manager, professor in the Staps department (Sciences and techniques of physical and sports activities) at the University of Perpignan.

→ ANALYSIS. In the momentum of the Games, France faces the challenge of accessibility to para-sport practice

Shaped to accompany Gotoski users, she glides by their side, holding them when needed. “It is also suitable for invisible disabilities, such as multiple sclerosis, and mental disability, she continues. We reach people who had never skied and others who had to stop. Downstairs, some are crying with emotion at having regained the feeling of sliding. »

→ MAINTENANCE. Paralympic Games: “Let’s show that disabled athletes exist and perform”

This offer complements that of armchair manufacturers such as Tessier, which also has a leisure range. For Fabienne Durand, director of the “Performance Santé Altitude” research laboratory, the Gotoski has the advantage of making its followers more “assets” than a seated descent in a seat piloted by an instructor.

“It’s important for self-esteem, but also on a physical levelshe points out. It’s worth a physio session. For people with disabilities, sports practice is a public health issue. As long as they have abilities, they have to be worked on. »

A prosthesis marketed at €1,500

As this type of equipment is not covered by health insurance, companies offer prostheses suitable for recreational sports, less expensive than the models used for competition. This is the case with Floki, a ski foot developed by Jouvet Orthopédie. “We have patients who no longer skied at all and who have recovered thanks to this device”welcomes Johanna Harel, orthoprosthetist and co-founder of the Hérault company.

Going in three years from the status of a prototype to that of a prosthesis marketed at €1,500, Floki is a compendium of technical solutions at “low prices”. The aluminum foot attaches directly to the ski. And the size is one size. From 42.



At the Paralympic Games, equipment in the race for medals

When Jordan Broisin sets off on the slopes of Yanqing for the alpine skiing events of the Paralympic Games in Beijing, organized from March 4 to 13, he will not only rely on his sense of trajectory. The hopes of the Haut-Savoyard, whose left leg was amputated after a motorcycle accident, will also rest on the reliability of his carbon prosthesis. “It corresponds to a size of 150 kg, even if I am not half that, he says. But when you go down to 100 km / h, you have to be sure that it holds up. »

At this speed, the robustness of the anchorage of the device on the amputated limb is also essential. “From a distance, we see these prostheses as fairly simple things. But the models with straps, it goes to go to the grocery store, launches Christian Fémy, director of winter sports for the French Handisport Federation. You also need a good shoulder-pelvis-knee alignment to cut beautiful curves. These are very specific, very particular and very singular prostheses. What goes to Peter does not go to Paul, the solutions are individualized. »

→ PORTRAIT. Christian Fémy, the guide of the French Paralympic ski team

Most French people are equipped by the specialized company Chabloz, whose historical base is located in Seyssinet (Isère), near Grenoble. The equipment offered is the result of research carried out by engineers, but also of regular exchanges with athletes. “Communication with the athlete is very important to optimize the equipment”insists Julien Mouret, head of the fitting process within the company, recently integrated into the German group Ottobock.

In the eyes of this ortho-prosthetist, these men and women follow the same path as any person deprived of a limb. “Initially, we are there to support patients towards a life that is as normal as possible, and leisure sport represents something important in their social and mental balance.he announces. Then, we accompany them as athletes. But the border between the medical device and the high level sports prosthesis is very fine. »

“A hyperspecific device”

Amputated below the knee, Jordan Broisin uses an energy restitution foot that he slips into his ski boot. Others have chosen the ProCarve prosthesis, a futuristic-looking model that clips directly onto the ski. Specifically designed for gliding by Chabloz, it is equipped with a cylinder and an oleo-pneumatic shock absorber to reproduce the flexibility of a knee. “Initially, fifteen years ago, the technology was inspired by mountain bikes”recalls Jules Revais, research and development engineer at the Ottobock Orthopedics and Services Network.

→ MAINTENANCE. Paralympic Games: “Let’s show that disabled athletes exist and perform”

Today, the shock absorber is supplied by a subcontractor from the automotive and aeronautical industry, with titanium connecting parts. Total price: €10,000. “It’s a hyper-specific device, which must withstand great efforts in curves and great impacts in the event of a jump”, says the specialist. The Procarve prosthesis has thus enabled femoral amputees to take up snowboarding, a discipline that appeared at the Paralympics in 2014. “Since then, there has been no major progress,” notes Julien Mouret.

At the Paralympic Games, equipment in the race for medals

“It’s the skier who makes the difference”

Will the machine end up taking over the man, at the rate of thousands of euros spent? “The mechanics can affect performance, but only for 10 or 15%, replies Lou Braz-Dagand. If we went straight, it wouldn’t be the same. But there are curves… It’s the skier who makes the difference. » The narrowness of the market does not encourage a war of manufacturers either, which could give a decisive advantage to some over others. “It’s a niche”summarizes Pierre Tessier, one of the world leaders with ten employees.

→ SLIDESHOW. PyeongChang Paralympics, photos of the great French victories

Same discourse among prosthetists.“For us, the ProCarve is above all a showcase, it concerns few practitioners”, says Jules Revais. These little jewels of technology nevertheless serve to improve the offer intended for an audience that is not looking to get on a podium. “All research and applications are available for athletesbasic, it makes prostheses easier to handle »argues Christian Fémy.

More than the technological arms race, it is the specificities of winter sports, which are less accessible, that keep most of the planet away from these Paralympic Games. Only about forty countries should participate in the Beijing edition. The skiers know each other well. “Everyone has their little secrets, but there is still a good understanding”, says Lou Braz-Dagand. “Our mindset is rather to share the solutions that can make our everyday lives easier”, adds Jordan Broisin, who doesn’t forget his goal either: to win a medal.


Six disciplines on the program

Six disciplines are included in the program of the XIIIand Paralympic Winter Games, held in Beijing from March 4 to 13: wheelchair curling, sledge hockey, biathlon, alpine skiing, cross-country skiing and snowboarding.

Seventy-eight titles are at stake. The alpine skiing, cross-country skiing and snowboarding events are open to athletes in three categories: visually impaired, seated and standing.

The French delegation is made up of 18 athletes, including four guides.