Who we help
We support all South African rugby players who have sustained a disabling and life-changing head, neck or spinal cord injury while participating in the game.
How we help
The Players’ Fund is alerted of serious and life-altering injuries* through the BokSmart reporting process. Following on-field care and during the acute medical care in hospital, the immediate needs of the individual and their family are assessed and assistance is provided.
*These injuries include, but are not exclusively confined to: Spinal cord injuries with irreversible nerve damage resulting in dependence on wheelchairs and walk-ing aids. Head injuries that impair normal day-to-day functioning (inability to work/walk/talk etc.) Other injuries that may lead to: visual impairment, irreparable limb damage or loss.
We aim to support rugby players who have been seriously injured by providing them with support on three levels:
– we provide equipment such as wheelchairs, as well as other essentials to improve the quality of their lives.
– injured players may be forced out of the game but they are encouraged to remain part of the rugby community. It takes a team to pick up a fallen player, we join this team.
– our office is just a phone call away offering strength and encouragement for the injured players and their families as they learn to cope with the state of crisis in which they find themselves.
Statistics and Financials for year ended March 2019
Prior to discharge from hospital and in consultation with the rehabilitation team, the Players’ Fund assesses the needs of the recipient and provides support that ranges from:
Provision of equipment
Well before the injured player is discharged from rehab, the multidisciplinary rehabilitation team will approach the Players’ Fund with the recipients equipment needs. Committee approvals are obtained, orders are placed and the equipment is delivered, ideally prior to discharge so that some “test runs” can be done and adjustments made.
Modification to homes
Being discharged from hospital is a major milestone emotionally and physically, but still a very early step on the long journey ahead for our recipients.
Before being discharged finally, recipients often spend a trial weekend at home where the family or carers will be able to assess and navigate any stumbling blocks to mobility and care in their new life.
The Players’ Fund then sources local construction companies and builders who are then contracted to make the necessary modifications to the recipient’s home in order to facilitate wheelchair usage.
Medical consumable allocations
Through a partnership with Ysterplaat Medical Services in Cape Town we are able to assist all recipients, with often “hard to come by” medical consumables throughout the year.
An annual allocation is provided to each recipient with a list of consumables that they may order. This list includes items such as urinary catheters, linen savers, vitamins, dressings and hygienic products.
Increasingly, the importance of regular exercise for the physical and mental wellbeing of our recipients has become evident. In order to facilitate this we provide a financial allocation to recipients for physiotherapy and outpatient treatment close to their place of residence.
Every recipient’s situation is different, hence the allocation can be utilised for what works best for that recipient in his environment – be it a government-provided service or a private physiotherapist or outpatient programme.
On an annual basis we gather information on the socio-economic and living conditions of all our recipients and their families.
Where possible and appropriate the Assistance Committee then approves monthly subsistence to those recipients that are in need of financial assistance.
The financial support given also extends to cover rent at assisted-living facilities for recipients and a further small subsistence grant to help with other necessities required by these recipients.
Partnering education and skills development journeys
Our focus is the holistic health and well-being of all our recipients and being with them throughout their individual journeys to ensure that they can have the best quality of life as possible.
Where recipients reach out to us and indicate that they would like to further their academic or skills journey, we partner them in order to see where we can assist.
Wherever possible we endeavour to assist our recipients in being able to travel where they need to go for medical attention, studies, health check-ups and hospital appointments etc.
Apart from the other pillars of support outlined, one of our main objectives is to ensure quality of life for all our recipients.
This is done through a wide range of service offerings and assistance such as caregiver training, hosting Enable Workshops, home visits, offering wheelchair-accessible rugby suites, providing annual gifts and more.
Rugby Safety & Injury Prevention / Advocacy
The Chris Burger Petro Jackson Players’ Fund and SA Rugby successfully launched their national rugby safety programme called BokSmart in July 2009.
This was after an unacceptably high incidence of catastrophic head, neck and spine injuries taking place on rugby fields throughout South Africa. Now, more than 10 years later, the number of spinal cord injuries has significantly reduced, with a marked decline in the number of scrum related injuries.
We support the ambitious yet worthy target of #VisionZero which aims to eradicate all serious rugby-related catastrophic spinal injuries, traumatic brain injuries, cardiac fatalities and severe concussions.
Understanding Spinal Cord InjuriesWhat is SCI'S?
WHAT IS A SPINAL CORD INJURY?
A spinal cord injury or SCI, happens when there is damage to the spinal cord that blocks communication between the brain and the rest of the body. This affects a person’s sensory (feeling), motor (movement) and reflex messages which reduces the ability to move and feel things below the level of the injury. Generally speaking, the higher up the spinal cord the injury occurs, the more dysfunction the person will experience. Injuries are referred to as complete or incomplete, based on whether any movement and sensation occurs at or below the level of injury.
Each person’s recovery from spinal cord injury is very different, but unfortunately total recovery from a spinal cord injury is very rare.
At present there is no cure for spinal cord injury but there are many doctors and researchers around the world looking for ways to help the nerves to heal themselves and recover.
The effects of spinal cord injury may include the following:
• Loss of movement below the level of the injury
• Loss of sensation below the level of the injury
• Loss of bowel and/or bladder control
• Exaggerated reflexes or spasms
• Alterations in sexual function, sexual sensitivity and fertility
• Pain or intense stinging sensation
LEVELS OF INJURY
SPINAL COLUMN ANATOMY: THE BASICS
When an accident and the spinal cord is affected, movement (motor) and sensation (sensory) may be interrupted temporarily or permanently. The facts below explain the function of the spine and how it is structured.
• The skull surrounds the brain.
• The spinal cord is protected and surrounded by rings of bone making up the spinal column called vertebrae.
• The vertebrae and skull are covered in a protective membrane.
• The spinal column, or backbone is made up of the vertebrae and this membrane.
• The spinal cord runs from the base of the skull to the level of the hips and is protected by the backbone
• The spinal cord is about 45cm long and begins at the base of the skull and ends near the last rib, it runs down the middle of the back.
• The spinal cord is the way the brain communicates with the rest of the body allowing people to feel and move.
• Messages are carried to and from the spinal cord through spinal nerves or neurons which fit through openings in the vertebrae.
• Spinal nerves leave the spinal cord in pairs, each on different sides of the body.
• Each nerve is involved in movement and feeling, telling individual body parts how and when to move. They also take messages back to the brain about sensations like pain, temperature and touch.
BoksmartWe support #VisionZero
BokSmart, the National Rugby Safety Programme, is a joint initiative between the South African Rugby Union and the Players’ Fund.
The main pillars of the programme are focused on: Injury prevention, injury management, rugby safety and player performance.
It is also through this national network that the Players’ Fund office is alerted of serious injuries as soon as they occur to enable the Fund to be there from the very beginning.
The BokSmart Spineline is a dedicated emergency helpline solely for potential serious concussion, head, neck and spine injuries sustained during a rugby match or practice.
The 0800 678 678 number will fast track emergency treatment and medical management of the seriously injured rugby player 24 hours per day from anywhere in the country.
The toll free number is linked to a National Emergency Service Provider, ER24 who provides the necessary advice, initial telephonic screening, and dispatches or arrange suitable transportation of the injured player to the nearest and most appropriate medical facility.
The Players’ Fund also supports the BokSmart initiative #VisionZero.
The key motivation behind #VisionZero is to aim for that ultimate point where there are eventually no more rugby-related catastrophic spinal injuries, traumatic brain injuries, cardiac fatalities and severe concussions.
As a secondary focus #VisionZero also extends to other areas of the game where full adherence to rugby safety regulations is achieved through safe playing fields, all referees and coaches being BokSmart certified, and the minimum medical staffing and equipment being provided at all matches, among other factors.
The Rapid Reduction NetworkWork in progress
Following a Constitutional Court judgement made in 2015 there is now a legal precedence to support a four hour cut-off time for the reduction of low velocity cervical vertebra dislocation. Meaning that a lack of effort to reduce a dislocated neck within four hours will open the door to medico-legal claims against a hospital, ER doctors and the applicable spinal consultant specialists.
Currently in South Africa if a spinal cord injury takes place, there is no regulated protocol in the hospital or with emergency units for the process to follow upon receiving such a patient. There is no centre of excellence network or system that can identify the best medical units or hospitals in a certain geographical area in order to immediate identify where to take the patient to secure treatment within the four hours.
Time is everything, as successful reduction, within this period can substantially increase the patient’s chances of a less severe disability or can even assist in ensuring full recovery.
Together with a network of specialists and medical service providers the Players’ Fund is advocating for the following actions and changes within the affected networks:
- The creation of an official, regulated guideline or protocol for treatment in hospital or emergency unit for low velocity cervical dislocation regardless of cause.
- The creation of a network of preferred hospitals or service providers that is approved and regulated and shared with all parties by the Department of Health.
- Awareness of the four-hour rule and the positive impact of timely treatment.
The goals and objectives of the Rapid Reduction Network Advocacy team are:
- Identify and draft a national guideline/protocol for rapid closed reduction of low velocity cervical spine dislocations in SA.
- Create a centre of excellence networks of preferred emergency medical centres. First process to start is within a private hospital network – e.g. Mediclinic.
- Advocate and gather support for guidelines to be officially accepted by provincial government in the Western Cape.
- Advocate and gather support for guidelines to be officially accepted by private hospital groups/medical aids.
- Create a centre of excellence networks of preferred emergency medical centres. Second process to focus on provincial service providers. Possible pilot project to be considered in the Western Cape utilizing existing.
- Advocate and gather support for guidelines to be officially accepted by national government.
- Create a centre of excellence networks of preferred emergency medical centres. Third process to focus on national service providers.
- Research component – Monitor and evaluate the impact of guidelines and centre of excellence network to show benefits to acute and the long-term health of injured patients. Identify researcher with project commencement.
- Reduce the cost of health care needs spanning a lifetime.
Every Donation Counts
Donations do not necessarily have to be money, you can donate your time or even just share our cause with a friend or colleague.
Wheelchair Friendly Rugby Suites
NEWLANDS – PLAYERS’ FUND SUITE 301
The Chris Burger Petro Jackson Players’ Fund are the proud owners of suite 301 in the Newlands Rugby Stadium. The suite situated on the Danie Craven Stand has been converted to cater to people living with disabilities. Fourteen wheelchairs and a helper per guest can be accommodated for every fixture during the rugby season.
If you bring your own seat – it’s FREE
The suite not only caters for recipients of the Chris Burger Fund, but any rugby enthusiast living with a disability and reliant on a wheelchair for mobility. The tickets are free of charge and include snacks and a selection of drinks.
How can I reserve a ticket for myself?
The tickets are distributed by means of a first come first serve basis. From 10h00 on the Friday two weeks prior to the game one can phone (021) 659 5615 to reserve a ticket for themselves and their helper. Be sure to be on the ball though, as tickets go in mere minutes!
LOFTUS VERSVELDT – SUITE N219
The Players’ Fund, in conjunction with the Blue Bulls Company (Pty) Ltd, the Blue Bulls Wheelchair Association and Vodacom opened this suite in 2011 to create a more suitable and comfortable area in Loftus for people with disabilities to watch the rugby.
Should anyone with a disability like to utilise this suite, tickets are R150 which also includes complimentary access for a companion/helper. To book these tickets directly please call Nola Padiachy (012) 420 0700.
Recipients of the Players’ Fund can call into the office on the Thursday two weeks prior to the fixture in order to secure tickets.
KINGS PARK – AMASONDO SUITE
Since 1995, a group of wheelchair users headed by Ari Seirlis (CEO of the QuadPara Association of South Africa- also known as QASA) leased a suite at Kings Park, which they made accessible, affordable and comfortable for wheelchair users to watch sport. The suite recently underwent renovation in 2012 which the Fund assisted financially.
They presently offer tickets on a rotation basis to members of the Chris Burger Fund. To apply for a ticket at the Amasondo Suite you can contact Dean on Shand@bundunet.co.za.