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Dylan Hartley sheds light on the painful daily legacy rugby is having on his body

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

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Former England skipper Dylan Hartley has revealed the painful legacy his injury-hit rugby career is having on his body in retirement. The 34-year-old has embarked on the interview circuit promoting his new autobiography which will be published next month.

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The Hurt has been written in conjunction with Michael Calvin and in an interview with the UK Guardian, Hartley shed light on the day-to-day issues he now has with his health 20 months after he last played a match – a December 2018 win for Northampton at Worcester.

A knee injury kept Hartley away from the pitch in 2019, denying him the chance to gain England selection for the World Cup, and he announced his retirement last November following a controversial career where disciplinary issues, as well as injury, left him with 97 caps, three short of being a Test level centurion. 

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England forward Courtney Lawes guests on All Access, the RugbyPass interview series hosted by Jim Hamilton
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England forward Courtney Lawes guests on All Access, the RugbyPass interview series hosted by Jim Hamilton

Asked in the interview if it hurts walking up the stairs, Hartley said: “Walking in general. I stay fit and the Lions and England physio came round the other day. He’s given me things to work on. 

“But it’s not ashtray money if I get weekly soft tissue treatment, osteo and physio, aspiration for the swollen knee, a couple of ostinol jabs for the old hip. Lots of players rely on all that every day – so to suddenly not have it [the paid-for care] is a shock to the system.

“I got dizzy this morning. I went for a walk and it happened. I’m thinking: ‘Am I hydrated? Is it vertigo?’ You question things,” he said, adding that he sometimes also messes up his words. “I’m thinking is it because of my concussion? But it’s not so bad now. There were times after I was concussed when I would struggle holding a conversation.”

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The retired hooker explained why it is like caring for his body now that he no longer receives assistance from the RFU or Northampton despite the toll rugby took on him. “That’s the reality. I’m not moaning. It’s the cyclical nature of sport. 

“When you’re a player you’re seen differently: ‘This guy’s an asset. We pay him this much. We need to get him back playing.’ Now it’s like: ‘You’re done, mate. We’ve got others coming through.’ As an ex-player, you fall off the cliff. So you do what you do in rugby. You live with it.”

 

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