Rowing Ireland Supports Retired Athletes Study

Rowing Ireland are excited to announce that they are supporting a new study that will explore the overall general health and wellness of retired elite athletes, with a particular interest in brain health. Alongside Rugby Players Ireland, Trinity College Dublin and the University of Michigan, Rowing Ireland will be involved in this exciting study which has brought together a group of academics who specialize in brain health and wellness.


Exercise is known to have beneficial effects on brain health and this study will explore the benefits of a sporting career on the long-term benefits. Rugby is a sport associated with trauma to the brain and this study will compare a career as a rowing athlete with that of rugby. Over the coming months, former Irish full-time international rowers and former professional rugby players will take part in the study. Both men and women will be asked to participate in general health screening that includes a battery of health and wellness questionnaires and computerized tests of brain function as well as some health measures such as body composition analysis. Tests will take part at various locations across Ireland. Participation by female and male rugby stars has been ongoing and the study is now inviting rowers.

The study lead is Dr Fiona Wilson who is former lead physiotherapist for Rowing Ireland and now an Associate Professor at TCD. Joice Cunningham is a physiotherapist who will be conducting the study as part of her PhD studies. The study has enlisted the help of Prof Steve Broglio who is co-chair of the largest athlete brain health study in the world; the Care Consortium. Dr Ella McCabe is Senior Clinical Psychologist and Head of Player Wellbeing at Rugby Players Ireland and is a key part of the research team. Her particular interest is in developing elite athlete mental health services both during their competitive career and at the point of transition following retirement. The research team is completed by senior academics in Neuroscience (Dr Aine Kelly) and Psychology (Prof Fiona Newell) from TCD, creating a team of internationally recognized researchers. Niall O’Toole and Sinead Jennings, both World Rowing Champions are the rowing athlete ambassadors for the study. Isaac Boss and Ailis Mardon-Egan, both former Ireland Rugby internationals,  are the rugby player ambassadors.


It is anticipated that this study will characterize the life experience of retired international athletes and provide information regarding benefits of sports participation.  Furthermore, it hopes to identify where support services need to be developed.


If you are a former, full time, international rower and would like more information about the study, please contact Fiona Wilson at




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