How playing on the University Rugby Team has changed my experience of Crohn’s Disease

Thomas talks about how joining a sport’s team has improved his life:

My name is Thomas Kerrigan, I am a third year Business student and Treasurer of the University rugby club. For the past year I have been living with Crohn’s disease, I was diagnosed at the start of the summer break and since that day my life has changed in ways that I could not have expected.

Firstly, I would like to educate you on what this illness is. Crohn’s is an inflammatory bowel disease which is incurable and must be managed via different forms of treatment throughout a patient’s life. It effects 115,000 people in the UK and although it is not a commonly known disability, awareness is on the rise. Until my diagnosis I was completely unaware and had zero understanding of the disease, the symptoms of Crohn’s are extremely hard to live with. There is the primary symptom of constant abdominal pain which usually gets stronger during the night, as well as the fatigue that comes from the lack of sleep and my body constantly trying to fight the disease. There are aches due to inflamed joints and the sudden urges to use the toilet – which is very embarrassing at times – along with many more other symptoms. However, although Crohn’s is very hard to live with, the University rugby team has helped me to change my mentality towards my life.

Those who know me, know that my love for rugby is endless and my passion to play is just as deep, but the past few years I have never pushed myself to my full potential. During my time at the university, I have been lucky enough to captain the second team but now I am hungry for more. I remember when I was diagnosed, I was scared that my life was potentially limited and that I would have to stop playing rugby, but that is not the case at all, in fact it is the opposite – I am now more motivated than ever. Throughout the summer I decided that I would stop feeling sorry for myself and I would start working towards a goal which I know is possible with enough discipline and motivation, which is to make the step up into the first team. My first target on this journey was to get into shape, so I started paying for a personal trainer and began my transformation, since starting with Alex Hill I have lost 16kg and I am currently in the best shape I have ever been in.

Tom's transformation

Getting fit has been the hardest challenge of my life as Crohn’s causes a protein deficiency which then makes it harder to build muscle, this was mentally my most difficult task. As a club we are now into pre-season, training hard and working on fitness and skills preparing for a very competitive season ahead. The rugby club is such a great standard and has such a great support group of the lads within it that my motivation to manage my life better has gotten so much stronger.

The team

It is because of UWSRFC that I have been able to keep focused through some of the darkest times and keep looking forward to the bright times ahead for both myself and the club, but the most important thing that the rugby club has done for me is give me a purpose to keep fighting through this awful disease. I feel obligated now to show other students with Crohn’s or any other disability that it is possible to keep you head up and use sports to keep you going. You do not have to beaten, you can be great, you WILL surprise yourself.

I would like to finish by saying I am looking forward to starting my treatment and none of this would have been possible without help from my family and the rugby club. The words haven’t been created to describe how thankful I am for all of you. Please visit to find out more information.

THomas Kerrigan 4