Head Injuries in Rugby – need for independent medics

Leinster v Munster at the RDS in the Magners Semi-final was a hugely entertaining game of rugby. BUT BUT BUT. Dougie Howlett was knocked out when hehit Rob Kearney’s leg in a tackle. Howlett later got up and was ataxic as he slightly staggered back to his place after a few minutes; Ronan O’Gara was knocked out in a smash with Jamie Heaslip – Photos in the Sunday Independent illustrating an article by Brendan Fanning, Rog played on; and Cian Healy was prostrate after another incident – not a foul – in the game, Healy played on. Each was attended by the medical teams of their province and each was allowed play on by that staff. The referees should be more prescriptive especially when it is obvious that the guy was out cold.

More than three concussions in a career makes the player five times more likely to have cognitive impairment later in life.

Flutey could have been cited for assault on BOD at the Ireland England match in Croke Park last year. How often has BOD been knocked senseless in his stellar career as the greatest ever Irish Player?

Recommendation: Medics, independent of the team involved, must review all such incidents and force common sense on warrior players (That is all of them – there are no cowards on the rugby pitches in the professional era).

It might be necessary to have a neurological institute undertake the task following the same format as international referees. A well-known Professor of Neuropathology certainly thinks that the issue is so serious that medical staff associated with the player’s teams should not be making the judgements. He supports the introduction of independent medical judgements in these cases.

This is a real and widespread problem. Last year, I examined a player in the RDS at an AIB League match. In the dressing room, he only knew he had played because he was in his shorts and boots but had NO memory of the game. Yet he insisted in taking a plane home later that same evening despite warnings etc. Regularly, we see great players knocked out and the three week match-free period of recovery does not seem to be strictly enforced. All that psychometric testing etc.

Rugby is crazy. The players must be protected from themselves.