First Northern Hemisphere & UK female Physical Disability Rugby League player, Emma Kirke joins BRIT
We are delighted that Emma has joined our BRIT Ambassador family. Emma is the first, and currently the only, Northern Hemisphere and UK female Physical Disability Rugby League (PDRL) player. Outside of her sporting career, Emma is a Television and Radio Presenter, Head of Sport and Station Manager at True Radio and an Alternative Medical Practitioner.
“Having been bullied, a victim of rape and sexual abuse, sustaining spinal injuries, short-term paralysis, a spinal shift, battling anorexia, living with long-term pain and surviving cancer, I hope my story will encourage others to inspire them to live life to the full. Being aware that there has been a significant increase in the number of students and young adults experiencing mental health challenges pre-COVID-19, it is worrying that the pandemic is impacting on existing mental health difficulties and the mental a health of many new and returning students. In order to avoid long-term effects on their mental health, a collaborative approach between charities, support services and organisations, will undoubtedly assist more young adults and students with mental health challenges. To support young adult and student mental health throughout the UK, BRIT have partnered, or developed special relationships, with many national governing bodies. By doing so, they hope to engage every UK university and college and deliver an annual BRIT Challenge for students and young adults to participate in. The BRIT 2021 Challenge is a feel-good fundraiser that enables students and young adults of all abilities to take part in wherever they are (at home or on campus) and feel part of their team. I am delighted to be joining the BRIT Ambassador family to support and improve young adult mental health and will do all I can to encourage fellow Professional Rugby League and Disabled Rugby League players to join me as BRIT Ambassadors and champion the BRIT Challenge. By uniting, we can encourage more of our chosen universities and colleges to take on the BRIT 2021 Challenge and support the mental health and fitness of students and young adults throughout the UK. I would be thrilled to encourage students and staff at the University of Surrey, Halifax College, University of Huddersfield, Wakefield College and the University of Leeds, should they enter teams in the BRIT 2021 Challenge. I wish every student and staff member who take part in Yorkshire and Humberside the very best of luck with their BRIT Challenge.”
Between the age of 11 and 17, Emma was bullied at school which had a huge impact on her and resulted in self-harming to release the pain.
“Then, at the age of 15, I was raped on a school trip to Spain by a local. I had some intense therapy to help with coming to terms with what happened and to aid my recovery. Subsequently, I missed some school due to therapy and almost got expelled”. Between 1993 and 2003, I was in a physically and mentally abusive relationship. Even after breaking free of the relationship, the stalking and harassment continued. I was determined to move forward and this episode of my life gave me a different kind of inner strength”.
Between 1997 and 2001, Emma studied for her Bachelor of Science (Hons) in Osteopathic Medicine at the University of Surrey. In 2000, Emma was involved in a car accident that resulted in paralysis for 4 months and the loss of bodily functions that was very challenging for her come to terms with. Fortunately, Emma then began to walk with the aid of crutches. With unknown expectations and suspected permanent damage, that would also be degenerative, Emma fought on. After battling for months and months, to a point of perceived stability and pain reduction, in 2005, Emma experienced a Spinal shift which resulted in using crutches and a spinal brace. Emma’s condition was inoperable due to the high risk of permanent paralysis and she then received the devastating news that it would not be possible to have children. She was advised to stop work and training, not to take any risks and use prescribed medication. In 2005/6, with no reduction in pain, Emma felt she was in a cycle of chemically induced drowsiness. In 2006, determined to take control, Emma came off her medication and decided to study nutrition, Eastern medicine and how foods can alleviate medical conditions. This was a learning curve for her approach to battling cancer in later years. In 2009, Emma was told that if she lost weight and reached 9 stone, she may be considered for surgery. Having reached the 9 stone target, Emma began associating the control of weight with the control of pain, she lost weight to reduce pain and then suffered with anorexia until her brother intervened and helped change Emma’s mindset. Between 2010 and 1011, Emma recovered from her Eating Disorder. Emma was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014. Due to the findings of a fine needle biopsy, and carrying a gene, Emma opted for a double mastectomy. To prepare for her operation, Emma trained hard to be cardio fit and worked on her nutrition in order to help maximise her recovery. Throughout 2015, Emma used fitness and nutrition for pain relief and recovery; she was given the all clear that same year. In 2018, Emma became the first female PDRL player in the UK, Europe and Northern Hemisphere. Everyone she plays with, and meets through the sport, is an incredible inspiration to her. Despite being nervous about taking a hit, everyone is extremely respectful of red short wearers (there is no tackling of players wearing red shorts in PDRL; instead, tackling is performed by a touch). Although Emma continues to battle with pain daily, on game day she feels great. As a television and radio presenter, and podcaster, post-match, Emma gets to interview players from all teams; gaining their views and feelings on the game. Ever since Emma qualified in 2001, she had a dream of a centre featuring multi discipline experts. In 2019, that dream become a reality. The RCM Wellness Centre, in Ossett, offers a huge range of therapies and services from a team a highly qualified team of professionals.
For more information on Emma, please visit her website where you can listen to her 3 Cs (Chat, cancer and community) podcast. To listen to Emma on True Radio, please visit the True Radio website. For more information about PDRL in the UK, please visit the Rugby League website.