It isn’t just you. If you have been watching post match interviews with rugby league players you will have noticed a large number of them have raspy and husky voices. Lets break down exactly what is going on with footy players and their unusual voices.
Why do rugby league players have husky voices?
Rugby league players have permanent husky voices due to injuries and repeated blows to their throats which typically occur in tackles. They have temporary husky voices due to straining their vocal cords from yelling to communicate with their teammates during a match.
Darren Lockyer might have the most famous husky voice in rugby league. It is comical how raspy he sounds. So much so it can often be difficult to understand him. There have been many rumours how the Queensland legend developed such a gravelly voice ranging from a rampant cocaine addiction to eating a dodgy lozenger. However, the truth is less exciting. While playing for the Broncos in 2004, Lockyer took a blow to his throat which damaged a small bone in his larynx. This has left Lockyer with a permanently altered voice.
Here Is A Video Showing You Just How Much Darren Lockyer’s Voice Changed After His Throat Injury
Gold Coast Titans star, Kevin Proctor had his voice moved down a few octaves by a stray elbow at practice in 2018. Proctor was making a tackle when he copped the full force of Brenko Lee’s elbow right into his throat. At first, Proctor didn’t think much of the contact, he popped up and wanted to continue training. It was only after taking a sip of water did he feel the bones moving in his throat. He immediately knew something was wrong, this was confirmed when he then started spitting blood.
Proctor jumped in one of the Titans trainer’s cars and headed to hospital. Doctors confirmed that Proctor had damaged his larynx but that he could still play footy but he would be sporting a new husky voice. Kevin didn’t seem to mind though as he was more concerned about his league career saying, “I said, ‘Am I going to be able to play footy again’,
“And they said, ‘Yeah’. As soon as they said that, I just calmed down”. Proctor actually seems to quite like his new voice, not surprising considering his wife’s fondness, Proctor said, “I don’t care that I have a husky voice aye. My missus actually likes it”.
Simon Mannering, a long serving New Zealand Warriors player developed a husky voice of taking repeated blows to the throat throughout his playing career. He said it often occurred when he was going in for a tackle on a big forward who would use his arm and forearm to bump and fend off Mannering. This would often result in Mannering taking a big shot right in the throat from a rampaging 100kg plus forward.
Mannering specifically recalls two incidents that really messed his voice up. In 2013, he took an elbow in the throat from Fuifui Moimoi which forced a trip to the doctors who inspected his throat with a camera and found some serious damage. Then in 2015 Mannering’s throat bore the full brunt of Newcastle Knights Jeremy Smith’s forearm, after that he was left with a very gravelly voice.
Rory Kostjasyn is another rugby league player who added his name to the list of players who have developed permanent raspy voices. During pre-season training with the Newcastle Knights in 2017, Kostjasyn copped a stray elbow directly into the throat. He had to be immediately transferred to hospital where it was discovered he had suffered a fracture to the cricoid cartilage in his trachea. Kostjasyn had also dislocated his vocal cords. These injuries were extremely severe and forced Kostjasyn into medical retirement as he had prolonged breathing difficulties, suffering a 30-40% reduction in breathing capacity.
Injuries to the throat during tackles are the common reason why rugby league players develop permanent husky voices. However, it is common for a footy player to end up with a scratchy voice that can last for a few days or even a week after spending the whole 80 minute match screaming at the top of his lungs.
As rugby league is a team sport made up of 13 players communication is key to getting every player moving in unison as a team. If a team isn’t working together effectively they have no way of winning the match. A major way teams organise themselves is through verbal communication. Footy players use verbal communication to call out plays they want to run, to organise their defensive line, to let each other know where they are on the field and to give words of encouragement to each other. There is a common adage in rugby league, a quiet team is a bad team.
Rugby league players will be talking to each other the entire game. To ensure that their teammates can hear each other over the noise of the crowd and the opposition side who is also shouting out instructions to each other they need to scream and shout. This prolonged shouting can take its toll on the vocal cords over an 80 minutes match. It can especially test the voice of the playmakers who need to be extra vocal to organise both the forwards and the backs and decide what plays the team runs.
This is why at the end of a match when players give post game interviews their voices will be very husky because they have just spent 80 minutes screaming. This damage to the vocal cords is temporary and players’ voices typically will return to normal within a few days. However, years and years of abusing the vocal cords can have permanent effects on the voice and some retired players will have a more raspy voice because of all the yelling they did throughout their career.
The mystery has been solved. Rugby league players have husky voices because they suffer injuries to their throats after being struck usually by forearms and elbows when attempting to make tackles. These blows result in damage to the bones in the larynx and the vocal cords, permanently changing their voices and giving them a raspy sound.