Physios find the ‘haka’ is a winner for kids with mental illness

Rugby stars from Samoa have been helping physios to motivate young people detained under the Mental Health Act to engage in physical activity by teaching them the world famous ‘ka mate’ haka.


International rugby stars Ken Pisi (front, left) and Ahsee Tuala (front, right) lead physiotherapists, nurses and other healthcare assistants at the St Andrew's Healthcare Northampton Child and Adolescent Mental Services & Neuropsychiatry Pathway in the haka

Ken Pisi and Ahsee Tuala, who play for Northampton Saints, visited young people with mental illness and learning disabilities at St Andrew’s Healthcare, Northampton.

The visit was arranged as a reward for the 11-19 year olds, for participating in an innovative physiotherapy assessment designed by physio student Tom Anthony while on placement.

The screening tool is based on the haka, best known for being performed by the New Zealand All Blacks at the start of rugby games.

St Andrews lead physio Nick Rayment, said: ‘Tom designed the tool using music from the Disney film Moana as a way to improve uptake of participation in assessments.

‘A lot of our children have real trouble trusting adults because of their histories, and will often hide or deny physical difficulties.’

He said that 70 per cent of the young people were now completing the assessments, compared to 10 per cent before the tool was developed.

He added that haka is ideal for non-threatening movement therapy because it teaches them about controlling aggression and movement.

Many of these young people are prone to sedentary lifestyles and may never have had interaction with sports, said Mr Rayment.

‘It’s opened their eyes a bit to meet two professional rugby players and they spent loads of time talking to the kids on a normal level which helps to break down barriers.’

The two rugby players are keen to return and the sessions are likely to be replicated for adult inpatients.

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