PJ Cunningham: Concussions and repercussions major headache for rugby

PJ Cunningham Concussions repercussions major rugby headache
15 April 2017; Dominic Ryan of Leinster during the Guinness PRO12 Round 20 match between Connacht and Leinster at the Sportsground in Galway. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

The Olympic movement may use the terms ‘Citius, Altius, Fortius’ (Faster, Higher, Stronger) to explain the motto of its games…but those very same virtues are now having a major impact on other sports. And not always for the benefit of the players participating, writes PJ Cunningham.

Since rugby went from amateur to professional in the mid 1990s, we’ve seen the body shape of those participating change exponentially to the extent that a second row back then is about the size of a centre in the modern game.

The serious difference in size and explosive running power means the impacts – or hits – are at a much higher level. This has occurred without the rugby authorities keeping pace with new laws that would look out for the welfare of the players under the new reality.

In the past week, a sixth Irish international, Dominic Ryan, had to retire at 29 due to a serious concussion he suffered on the rugby playing fields. His initially undetected injury followed a collision with Lions and Wales winger George North (Northampton) when Ryan was playing for Leicester Tigers.

PJ Cunningham Concussions repercussions major rugby headache
25 June 2016; Donegal Doctor Kevin Moran treating Frank McGlynn for concussion during the Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Semi-Final game between Donegal and Monaghan at Kingspan Breffni Park in Cavan. Photo by Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

Among the symptoms he suffered as a result was an inability to sleep, migraines lasting a fortnight, flashing white light in his vision, nausea, dizziness and a pounding pressure inside his head.

After medical examination in the days after the game, he was sidelined for 12 weeks but as problems persisted, it became as he said himself a “no brainer” to retire.

I have no doubt that there are 60 times six out there suffering in some way from injuries and while the rugby laws have changed to penalise high tackles, the reality is that surviving some hits between beasts of men is akin to stepping out of a car crash.

American Football is at last having to man up to dealing with its neglect of players’ injuries as it faces huge bills in lawsuits.

Rugby better hope it’s not too late to get its house in order or it will be faced with the same vista.

GAA needs to reshape its games

The All Irelands are over and the optimism of supporters has long dissipated into the reality that only one team wins Sam Maguire and one team wins the Liam MacCarthy Cups.

Worse still, while the hurling took us to new heights in terms of entertainment, football is plunging new depths in terms of its ‘watchability.’

Even so, there is now a long gap until we see the bread and butter fare of league game again. Yes, we have the club championships to fill discussion topics in the long nights of winters but isn’t it a shame that we will see no inter-county matches again until 2019.

The GAA constantly chops and changes its schedules to modernise and react to the demands of a changing supporters’ base but sometimes instead of taking one step forward, it manages to take two steps backwards.

PJ Cunningham Concussions repercussions major rugby headache
5 August 2018; A lone Clare supporter in the stand prior to the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship semi-final replay match between Galway and Clare at Semple Stadium in Thurles, Co Tipperary. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Depriving us of matches in April so that clubs could play championship games was better in theory than in practice.

Similarly, some years ago it decided that it was better to condense the league into a same-year format in preference to the old way which saw the league commence in late October for three rounds before Christmas and then resume in the New Year.

That gave fans an opportunity to keep in touch with the local heroes instead of seeing them stowed away in cold storage for up to six months in many cases under the present system.

It might be easier to run a sport and tick certain boxes by doing this, but the future of the game depends on the next generation following their counties the same way as this generation did.

That said, it behoves the GAA to work on changing the football rules pretty quickly before attendances taper off to an alarming degree.

25 July 2012; The FRC today launched a dedicated website www.frc.ie that will allow interested people with specific views on Gaelic football to ‘Have Your Say’. They can email the FRC on frc@gaa.ie and those who do not use the internet may send their views in writing to @ FRC, c/o Communications Dept, Croke Park, Dublin. Speaking at the launch is Chairman of the FRC and former Offaly manager Eugene McGee. Croke Park, Dublin. Picture credit: Brian Lawless / SPORTSFILE

Former Offaly manager Eugene McGee told me at the weekend he was surprised, despite the GAA claiming they had a full house at Croke Park for the Dublin-Tyrone All Ireland final, how many seats went unclaimed.

He estimated from the Press Box that it might have been as high as 10,000 – now if that’s true, the powers that be in the GAA better start making the game watchable again… and soon at that.

Footnote: It’s 16 years since Saipan saw Roy Keane leave the Irish World Cup camp after a row with his manager, Mick McCarthy.

We’re now can only wonder what ramifications Harry Arter’s and perhaps Declan Rice’s non-appearance for Ireland due to a reported row with the Assistant Manager Keane will end up havihttp://www.theirishworld.com/dulwich-harps-siobhan-mccann-facing-toughest-opponent/ng for Martin O’Neill’s squad.

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