A Concussion Guide (or How Many Fingers?)

Here is an update on the debate about diagnosing concussion in the Premiership next season. This follows in the wake of recent publicity on the subject and the incident with Toulouse’s Florian Fritz over the weekend in the game against Racing Metro. There is a growing concern in rugby about the increasing number of concussions being suffered by players.

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There was much disquiet in certain quarters that Guy Novés may have been a little cavalier (reprising his triumphant D’Artagnan in the school play) when he sent Florian back onto the field after he’d wandered off covered in blood.

My French isn’t up to much (neither is my English to be fair) and the pitch-side microphones were a little fuzzy but this is how I think it went –

Guy: “Ette vous okay mon brave?”

Florian: “J’ai un grande pain du tete guv”

Guy: “ d’accord – ici l’aspirin – mange deux immediatement”

Florian: “Je imagine il non pleut ici aussi”

Guy: “ WTF? – er..pardonnez moi –  Je mean quest que sais?”

Florian: “Je suis une grande bunch de bananes”

Guy: “Je pense vous est tres bonne un cent percent”

Florian: “ Je m’appelle Fifi”

Guy: “Zut alors – retournez ā l’action toute suite

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There may have been a few more aspirins and a little less witty banter but you get my gist.

I’m not entirely sure what all the fuss was about, but let’s be fair, for a long time knocks on the noggin weren’t treated (ha ha) any more seriously than a dead leg. A quick rub down with a sponge soaked in muddy water (liberated from the ladies knocking out spam sandwiches) and the bloke with the bucket told you to get up and get on with it. As this fat bloke waddled back to the touchline you could hear him muttering about not knowing what all the bleeding fuss was about and calling you a big ‘Jessie’.

I’m describing my own experiences of course – these days concussion is taken much more seriously – for a start Tubs has been replaced by an attractive Doris with the legend ‘PHYSIO’ emblazoned on her club tracksuit.

She carries an impressive looking medical box (probably not filled with spam sarnies) and fusses over the laid out player as if she has a clue as to what she’s doing. She puts on surgical gloves (to protect her recent manicure). Then she huddles over the prone bloke so that the cameras and mikes can’t see her prodding the injury or hear her say “absolutely no idea”  After a few minutes she is likely to put on a very worried expression, shove a neck brace on the dazed chap and signal for a stretcher. This arrives via a posh golf cart (zig- zagged across courtesy of Andy Powell) – long gone are the days when wheezing St John’s blokes staggered out with a piece of grey cloth stretched between a couple of broom handles. I promise you – broken leg, full blown concussion or with a set of studs embedded somewhere in your anatomy – you were much safer crawling off under your own steam or simply staying at the bottom of a ruck.

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Such is the concern in New Zealand re concussion that they have started to equip referees with “a universal test for detecting and responding to on-field brain trauma.”

This has been developed by Dr Paul Quigley and emergency nurse Doug King and is presented as a “guide to treating concussion, which can be used on sidelines, the back of an ambulance, or an emergency department.”

Dr Paul has been testing the new system with rugby clubs already, and picked up 17 concussions that were not otherwise detected.

This sounded pretty revolutionary to me and a great potential advance for the Premiership – that is until I discovered that “The test involves suspected concussion victims memorising pictures, reading a series of numbers at increasing speeds, and being asking questions about how they feel.”

Memorising pictures? Seriously?

With all the technology advances in rugby (many brilliantly ridiculed in this blog I might add – www.rugbyoldbloke.wordpress.com) I can’t believe that we need a Janet and John picture book to tell if the bloke who just stumbled off the field groggily asking how many pounds of stuffed cabbage you’d like to purchase, is maybe a bit woozy.

Blimey – they have computer microchips that  monitor just about everything a bloke does on the field (and off it) and can tell exactly  when he’s a bit shagged out and needs to be subbed – surely there has to be more than asking him if he maybe feels a bit not with it.

And, as for reading numbers – I know some forwards who can’t get beyond 9 when they are fully compos mentis – they wouldn’t be allowed on the field in the first place if Doc Paul had his way.

I’m all for dealing with the problem – it is serious – especially with the ever bigger hits (no physio jokes please) that we see nowadays, but surely we don’t have to resort to a colouring in book and a few crayons for a proper diagnosis guys!

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