Dr. Trevor Clark's thesis looks at the health of fellow Māori former league players and, based on his findings, he wants current players to think about their quality of life post-retirement.
Clark (Waikato-Tainui) played rugby league professionally in England for twelve years for both Bradford Northern and Featherstone Rovers. He graduated on Friday with his PhD from Massey University.
His education path dates back to his time in the north of England between 1983 and 1995 where he gained Bachelor of Arts (Hons) and Master of Sport and Exercise Science degrees at Leeds Becketts University.
L-r: Dr. Trevor Clark, Brett Iti, Clarry Iti and Brendan Tuuta following a match between Featherston Rovers and Bradford, 1990. Photo/supplied
For the past seven years Clark has been based at Sydney Olympic Park, where he is currently Head of Department, Sport Performance and Sport Business. He considers himself lucky.
"It's funny, I've actually never had a real job. I've been in sport my whole life. I've played sport, coached sport and now I teach sport."
For his PhD he undertook the first health study of retired Māori rugby league players using methods with a Māori-centered approach.
"What I found is Māori suffer a lot of injuries. They continue play through pain, probably to their own detriment as well."
It is that mindset he says needs to change.
His study involved both professional and amateur players. He found many suffered from early onset of osteoarthritis and had joint replacements, or injuries that continue to plague them.
Clark says some "ended up having to change their whole careers because of concussions that had suffered during playing games, playing their sports."
Worryingly, Clark believes many of his subjects would be happy to do it again "and they probably wouldn't change anything. That's the problem, they'd still continue to play through the pain."
Clark is wanting today's players to take care of their bodies while they're still young.
"It's great to play rugby league, but when you retire from rugby league you want to make sure you can continue on living a healthy life and enjoying your retirement years after sport."
His oldest son Regan (27) hung up his boots at age 18 because of injuries and younger son Mitch (25) has followed his father's career path playing for both Featherstone Rovers and Bradford in recent years. Mitch has also suffered from numerous injuries during his career which currently sees him playing for Castleford Tigers in the Super League.
Dr. Clark and his family, including sons Mitch and Regan. Photo/supplied
Clark would like to one day conduct his research on other indigenous cultures around the world.