Concussion problem still being overlooked

Big game for Donegal against Tyrone on Saturday night

Manus Boyle


Manus Boyle

Concussion problem still being overlooked

Like every other sports mad supporter in the country, I was glued to the Ireland v Wales match last Friday night. It was a disappointing result but what grabbed a lot of the headlines, as they have all year, were the ferocious hits.

Described by many as multiple car crashes, each hit sends a shiver down your spine. While you have to appreciate and admire the bravery and the discipline shown by the players, you also have to ask the question, where will it end?

Players are now bigger and stronger than ever before. Their conditioning is second to none; that is what professionalism has brought to the sport but it has come at a price. More and more parents are unwilling to send their children to such sports. They understand now because of the advances in health science the dangers of concussion and contact injuries.

In a recent piece in the Sunday Independent, Brendan Fanning reported that “one of the foremost authorities on concussion in sport, Dr. Willie Stewart, is considering his position on the World Rugby’s independent concussion advisory group” following another report of a player being left on the field despite a suspected concussion.

Dr Stewart was concerned at the outcome of a report into the handling of Munster’s Conor Murray in a game against Glasgow in January. Murray was flattened in an incident, treated by medics and allowed to continue; hit again in another incident, then withdrawn for a head injury assessment but was then allowed to return to the field.

Stewart’s argument centred around the fact that the head injury assessment, which is a line of questioning by the medical staff on the player called the Maddocks questions, was started on the field which would suggest that the medical staff may have considered Murray to have been concussed. But if that was the case, under the rules he should not have been allowed to carry on as the questions should not be used to clear a player of suspected concussion.

When the report came back the Munster medical staff were cleared of any wrongdoing. However, Stewart questioned the fact that neither the player involved in the incident nor the match official were not interviewed by those carrying out the report.

The World rugby governing body are quite clear; if you‘re asking (the Maddocks) questions then it’s because you think the player has been involved in a head collision that may have injured the brain, thus you have started the head injury assessment, so the player needs to be off the field. In Murray’s case that didn’t happen.

Murray’s case is not the only one that has grabbed the attention of Dr. Stewart. But you have to ask the question, why was everyone concerned cleared? Is there an issue with pulling up medical staff or bringing attention to the dangerous injuries that have become part and parcel of the game? Are those that run the business end of rugby afraid that poor press and a bit of bad publicity will affect the profit margin?

Indeed rugby is by no means the only sport that this sort of behaviour goes on? Remember what happened when those in charge of American football failed to listen to the medical advice that came their way; continuous court cases and multi-million dollar pay-outs in compensation but sadly too late for many players who had passed away because of their injuries picked up plying their trade.

Would it be fair to assume that the profits were put before the health of those playing the game? Could the same question be asked of many authorities who are in charge of the many sports that our children love to play or support? Where is the duty of care towards those who contribute to the history and the evolution of their sport?

It would be naive of us not to think that those who run and control sport would do whatever it takes to defend and protect their sport.Look at what has gone on in this country for the last 60 years and see how the institutions of the state protected themselves rather than the people who they were supposed to protect and serve.


It's back to Ballybofey on Saturday night and another encounter with our near neighbours Tyrone. As our Division One status is now more or less guaranteed it will be interesting to see how both managers approach the game.

It could be seen as a chance to lay down a marker for the summer ahead, put the opposition on alert and show no mercy or it could be an opportunity to send out a weakened team or indeed give panel members a chance to show their worth and get some meaningful experience against one of the top teams in the country.

One aspect that has been commonplace in the games so far this year has been the close attention given to the likes of Ryan and Eoin McHugh and Michael Murphy and the Donegal management needs to draw attention to this in their dealings with the press and the relevant authorities as match officials seem unable to protect them.

It will be vital to our chances in the Ulster championship that these lads will be able to play with a freedom that will increase our chances of success because you can be sure that managers of the opposition will be making damn sure that they will be restricted, both within and outside of the rules.