For the Players
For the game

James Collins: Starting Over

September 8th, 2014

Former Worcester Warriors flanker, James Collins, had a bright future and a new Club contract ahead of him, until a devastating head injury forced his retirement at the age of just 25. James tells us about his experience and how Restart, the rugby players’ charity, helped him get back on his feet.

In 2011, with a career that had included England U18s and England Sevens, James was on the verge of moving from Worcester to Sale Sharks on a new two year contract. But after taking a knee to the head during a game against Nottingham, James suffered a serious whiplash injury that resulted in haemorrhaging on his brain.

“I was out for the rest of the season, and my symptoms just kept getting worse,” explains James. “I had a constant headache and couldn’t walk more than 100 metres without getting dizzy and spaced out. I couldn’t drive, read, watch TV or look at a computer. I had to move back in with my parents and was pretty much housebound, except for medical appointments.

“Even after my contract with Sale was terminated, I was still hoping things would get better and I could eventually return to playing rugby. Restart was helping me to access specialist physio treatment and they also paid for a neurology consultation that showed I had damaged my dura – the neural tissue that runs through the spine and around the brain.”

As the months went by it became clear that, not only would James have to retire from rugby, but he also faced a long battle just to try and regain a normal life. Restart continued to help with physio treatment and also provided rehabilitation equipment and counselling support to help James come to terms with the full implications of what had happened.

“After dedicating my life to the game, I had lost not only my career, but also my main passion and focus in life, my financial independence and, hardest of all, my health. I had gone from being a professional rugby player with a Premiership career ahead of me, back to living with my parents and depending on benefits.”

A year after the injury, and following regular physio treatment combined with gentle exercise, James finally began to see some improvement. “It’s surprising some of the things I can and can’t do. For example, I can now walk or cycle outside where there are buildings or static objects to help with my visual balance, but I struggle with shopping centres and supermarkets because of the UV lighting and floor vibrations.

“I still have to pace myself but I can now do regular activities like walking, cycling, meeting friends and watching TV. It’s made a huge difference to my overall recovery. If anyone asks me how I am now I say ‘fantastic’ because, compared to how things were a year ago, they really are.

“I still have a long way to go, but I feel that the worst is behind me and I’m now looking to the future from a very positive perspective. I’m hugely thankful for the emotional and financial support I’ve had from Restart. Without their help there is no way I could have reached the level of recovery I am currently at now.”