The International Rugby Board, the supreme governing body in the union game, has been worried for some time about concussion: last week, their council introduced guidelines on diagnosis, care and return-to-play protocols.
But rugby is, and always has been, a collision-based sport, and whatever the rules in place at a given time, and whatever kind of tackling is in vogue – high or low, single or double, aggressive or passive – there is no escaping the fact that the head will take its share of punishment. The IRB now accepts that padded headgear is not the answer: indeed, there is some evidence to suggest it can be counter-productive.
In recent months, two international hookers from the European champions Leinster – Bernard Jackman and John Fogarty – have retired from rugby because of repeated concussions.
Their stories are disturbing. "It affects every aspect of your life," Fogarty remarked. "It takes from you. I'm a different person when it's bad." Jackman said: "I believe I sustained 20 concussions over three seasons, but to drop out would have been a sign of weakness."
Both are now ambassadors for the charity organisation Acquired Brain Injury Ireland.Reuse content