The low-down on concussion
Concussion is were the individual becomes confused or experiences temporary unconsciousness due to a blow to the head. This is somewhat common in rugby and BBC Sport reports that during every 1000 hours, there will be on average 20.9 concussions. This is a staggering amount and is not far behind the concussion epidemic in the National Football League.
So what are the consequences to our players and world rugby?
The terrifying reality
The majority of us who play rugby or any contact sport have probably had a few bashes to the brain and may have felt slightly dizzy afterwards. The standard response for most people is to have a quick breather and get back up. Many players, across all levels would think if they could finish the match this would be great, even if the knock wasn’t really affecting them at that current time. See, this is where concussion is most deadly.
Over the last eight months, four rugby players have died playing the gentleman’s game In France. One of them was Louis Fajfrowski, a professional rugby player for Arulliac Club. About sixty minutes into the match, he suffered a large collision to the chest. He left the pitch unaided and smiled whilst walking to the changing rooms. Shortly after this, Louis came in and out of consciousness a multiple of times and his body started to shut down. I would love to say Louis survived this ordeal but he passed away shortly after.
Louis and the three other French players have all died from playing the game that so many adore. Now evidently, dying from a concussion during a rugby match is somewhat rare, yet the long term effects of concussion are equally as scary.
“It took me nearly eight months to recover”
There have been a few high profile concussions in recent years, with Leigh Halfpenny being the most recent. Arguably the ‘poster boy’ for concussion is Wales and Ospreys wing, George North. North has suffered over five blows to the head and if he were an amateur he “would not play again” the BBC comments. North continues to play today and realistically he will have to call it a day on his playing career if he suffers anymore big knocks. Fortunately, North will continue to grace the pitch for years to come but some players have not been as lucky.
Former Newport winger, Adam Hughes was forced to retire after a long battle with concussion because of “two major trauma scars” on his brain. The BBC also reported that it took him nearly eight months to recover and is still affecting his day to day life. Hughes wanted to pursue a career as a commercial pilot but due to his head injuries this is a “slim possibility”. Alongside this Hughes may be facing long term side- effects of concussion.
It CAN be debilitating for life
The majority of rugby players will never experience the debilitating symptoms of concussion; they are very rare. Although it is very important to be aware of all aspects of concussion. This includes the links with depression and sleeplessness. Moreover, the most serious is probably slower neurological recovery and the possibility of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Both are relatively serious but the latter is a debilitating disease.
The disease comes from extensive study of the brains from deceased American footballers. CTE is deadly because it releases a protein (called Tau) which slowly kills off brain cells. Leading to depression and Parkinson’s like symptoms. Additionally, it has not only been linked with full blown concussions but more so with small sub-concussive blows to the head. These small blows happen regularly in rugby, specially to forwards like Kyle Sincler and Bastareaud who are used as battering-rams!
The sad but true reality
The reality is this; concussion is growing to be a part of rugby, which is not acceptable on any level. At the same time, no one is going to stop playing the sport they love because of something that is not immediately affecting them. Many people, myself are guilty of this. So what is the best way to tackle concussion head on?
My next article will assess the best solutions to address the forever growing issues of concussion.
Written by Sam Powell