Keego on the concussion business.
From Wikipedia: Concussion, from the Latin concutere (“to shake violently”) or concussus(“action of striking together”), is the most common type of traumatic brain injury. The terms mild brain injury, mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI), mild head injury (MHI), minor head trauma, and concussion may be used interchangeably, although the last is often treated as a narrower category. Although the term “concussion” is still used in sports literature as interchangeable with “MHI” or “MTBI”, the general clinical medical literature now uses “MTBI” instead. In this article, “concussion” and “MTBI” are used interchangeably. Frequently defined as a head injury with a temporary loss of brain function, concussion causes a variety of physical, cognitive, and emotional symptoms, which may not be recognized if subtle.
With the news of Johnny Sexton’s concussion that isn’t a concussion I thought I would talk about my thought on the concussion business.
If we hop into the delorean and go back to the 1970’s, I wasn’t alive but I have heard enough stories from rugby players over pints of Guinness to feel like I was, the game was very different, the players where very different but most importantly the way concussions where dealt with was very different. Back then if you got a bang on the head you were told not to play. Sometimes for at least 3 weeks. Now sometimes it was forgotten about when the first team needed a player, but most of the time you were just told to do nothing for a few weeks and then get back to it. No concussion testing or remembering of 1 line like in the NFL. You were told to stay away for a certain amount of time to let the head clear.
Back then there was minimal information on concussion and there where less of them based on how the game was played but the players where better taken care of when a bang on the brain happened.
Nowadays in rugby there is a head impact assessment (HIA) that takes place in the changing rooms when a knock occurs. Not a bad thing. But the main worry is that the effect of the knock may not appear so quickly. With energy, caffeine and adrenaline a player could snap out of a decent dose of head trauma fairly quickly. It is when the player has cooled down and is back to a normal state after the match where the damage is realised. And by that stage they have already been put back in the field to take more damage. I know that for the bigger knocks it is obvious and no further game time is given, but I am talking about hits that don’t look that terrible. Second impact syndrome could also occur, this is when there are 2 impacts in a short period of time and can be a serious problem.
For example, go back to the 6 Nations in 2009 and watch the Ireland v England match. There is a 10 minute stretch where Brian O’Driscoll gets 3 big knocks. He of course wants to play on, being the warrior he is, but he could have done serious damage to his faculties by doing so. I am sure he will be fine for the remainder but surely he should have been protected from himself?
Sexton has that same warrior spirit. That will to win that makes him who he is. That makes him put his body in the way of people who look like small cars without a second thought. Are we getting to the stage that he should be protected from himself? I want to see Sexton and his family walking around town or be able to send a pint his way if I see him out. I don’t want to see him broken down or in any pain that was cause by me buying a ticket to watch him being a warrior.
Which brings me to the business of concussion.
Back in the 1970’s there wasn’t TV money, the players had jobs and where civilians. You could buy insurance from an Ireland squad player. It was very different, so therefore the economic pressures of season ticket holders, branches, unions and sponsors was nowhere near where it is today.
Using Sexton as the example here. He was brought back (I was delighted just to see him in blue after a rough couple of years away) to Leinster. The king had returned. But he returned at a huge cost. Now whether it was the branch, the union or Denis O’Brien who paid the bill it doesn’t matter. Anyone who outlays big money demands a return, if you pay big money to have your house roofed and the builder breaks his leg, you still want your house roofed. And the further away from the pitch this gets the less important the human being gets. To us, Sexton is the most important. His health and wellbeing are at the fore. But when you get to Denis O’Brien’s accountant (for example, don’t sue me Denis) he or she is more worried about the bottom line than the brain of a sports person. And this is where it is getting problematic. This mixed with a rugby player’s innate want to play regardless of injury or concussion is slightly worrying. The head impact assessment is a joke. In the NFL you just have to say a sentence that they have deemed a good test of someone’s faculty. On top of the HIA Leinster have come out and said he wasn’t concussed, much like Keith Earls the other week for Munster. It is a horrible place to be in. Watching the match he was obviously concussed. And they made the right decision keeping him off the pitch, they should have said that instead of trying to tell us he didn’t get a concussion. This makes the whole thing a lot more sinister.
All of this applies to the professional game. When I played at the very low levels (no disrespect to any former teammates reading this) I played at least 3 games (ok I was a sub for 30 minutes in each) with full on concussion. I was too stupid (it is stupid when I do it, brave when Sexton and BOD do it) to not show up and play to win. It is at this level and schools level where the coaches need to step in a make sure no player is in danger. I am not blaming my coaches for my bad decisions by the way, I was an adult.
It comes down to me having buyer’s guilt. When it comes down to it, I don’t want to see people struggle in later life because I wanted to have a few jars and watch rugby players batter each other. I’ll be screaming louder than anyone in the rds. and Lansdowne, but I am starting to get a bit quieter when those hits come in.
As usual, @nkeegan if you want to debate, cajole, ridicule or deify. And if you like it, please share it.
Until next time…