Tuesday, 27 May 2008

It's a knockout

I read with interest Nursedude's account of how his foreign exchange student, Rodrigo, was concussed in a recent game and it reminded me of the couple of occasions that I've been knocked out in my rugby "career" (those that I recall anyway).

When I say "concussed" I don't mean the all-too-common groggy feeling you get after taking a bash to the head which tends to be ten-a-penny through any normal season. No, what I do I mean is that horribly unnerving disoriented feeling you can get, a clear indicator that - at some point in the match - you must have blacked out.

As I've said, it's happened to me a couple of times. The first occasion was back in 1987 when I played a few early season games for Henley's 3rd XV when I first started working in London (no, London to Henley isn't an obvious commute but one of my old university mates played for Henley and persuaded me to go down there and provided me with a lift). Anyway, one afternoon I found myself lining up for Henley 3rds against their equivalents from Guildford & Godalming - the club I'd played for the previous season. Having played for all four senior teams at G&G I therefore knew most of the opposition pretty well (far better than I knew my own team) so that was pretty weird in itself. Imagine my confusion, then, when I "came to", standing at the back of a lineout, trying to work out why on earth I was wearing the yellow of Henley and not the green and white hoops of G&G. In my befuddled state I worked out, entirely wrongly of course, that Henley must have been short of numbers and that I had been lent to them by G&G. Shortly afterwards the half-time whistle blew and I asked one of the Henley players what the score was. "Nil-nil mate," he replied, looking at me as if I was a total idiot. As the second half got underway the fog started to lift and I began to realise where I was and what must have happened and I actually played reasonably well as we scored a couple of tries to win the game. Afterwards it turned out that I had been involved in a big clash of heads in the first few minutes but that I'd seemed ok to carry on. Obviously what I should have done was get myself checked out by a doctor after the game but, being 23, I went out partying with some mates in London and drank myself stupid(er).

The other occasion was in 1992, playing for the Bandits - a social team organised (in the loosest sense of the word) by yours truly. One day I'll write an account of the illustrious albeit short-lived history of the Bandits but on this occasion I'll limit myself to this particular incident. We were playing the social team from Bishop Stortford RFC and I'm told that, early in the first half, I attempted a tackle in which my head hit the opposition centre's knee, with me dropping to the floor like a "sack of spuds." Moments later I was up, insisting I was fine but, after another few minutes, was led from the field after having taken up a fairly unorthodox lineout position behind the scrum half! Again, I remember "coming to" sitting on the touchline trying to work out where the hell I was. We weren't playing in the green & gold of Barnes (my club at that time) so I knew it couldn't be a Saturday. I also couldn't work out why 2 girls I recognised from my university days were there watching (obviously they were there supporting their other halves - who I'd asked to play). I must have sat there for 30 minutes or so trying to piece everything together until, eventually, the mist lifted again and the pieces started to fall into place. This time, being a little older and a tiny bit more mature, I was a little more sensible and stayed off the booze, although I did drive home and I'm pretty sure I turned out the following Saturday for Barnes.

These days I'd like to think that clubs, coaches, referees and players are likely to be a little more aware of the risks of head injuries, would recognise the signs of concussion (for example a player asking the score when it's 0-0 must either be concussed or just thick) and would ensure that the player received proper medical attention. What I do know, however, is that being concussed is one of the weirdest and most unpleasant feelings I've ever experienced.


Nursedude said...

Hi TF, FYI,Rodrigo is healing up fine. If his team wins this week,he should be good to go next week.

I got hit pretty good in the Green Bay game this spring, but I was just a bit foggy. The only time I really had a significant head injury was when I was 16 and playing American Football. I remember getting hit pretty well trying to cover a punt in the first quarter. I did not really come out of it until the 4th quarter when I asked a team-mate what quarter it was and what the score was(He looked at me like I was nuts, too). Apparently I had gone out and played throughout the game-I just did not remember any of it. I had a really good headache for a couple of days and nausea, as well. I never did see a doctor, but based on those symptoms, it's a pretty safe bet I had a concussion, too.

I think one of the problems(among many) with American Football is that since players wear more kevlar-type protection than robocop, it gives them a false sense of security in the way that they try to tackle, or make a hit.
After having played the two sports, I really think American Football is the more dangerous of the two sports.

If you have any doubt, take a look at the huge number of former NFL players who live with debilitating health and pain issues from their years of playing American Football.I am not aware of the same issue that befalls rugby players.

Total Flanker said...

I don't doubt for one minute that American Football has the bigger collisions and the padding probably has something to do with it.

Certainly in rugby the impact at the tackle isn't (or traditionally hasn't been) anywhere near as violent.

However, in professional rugby, with players getting bigger and faster, there's equally no doubt that players are hitting each other with ever increasing force - a situation that the additional 5 metres at scrum time under the ELVs will do nothing to help.