As one of the most well-publicised contact sports, rugby has found itself the subject of some perhaps unwanted attention – exacerbated by Will Smith’s 2015 portrayal of forensic pathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu in Concussion.
The severity of a head injury caused during a rugby game is one that has divided opinion and continues to do so – and in today’s post, we’re taking a look at the history of concussion and the (perhaps unfair) media coverage it’s received.
Hitting the headlines
In recent years, there have been several articles published debating the significance of concussion injuries – but with the media adding their own spin on the facts, it’s difficult to know where the truth lies. Over the years – before concussion was so well publicised – rugby players often kept their injuries to themselves, not understanding the dangers of a head injury. But several high profile cases have led to a change in attitude – and when Bath full-back Anthony Watson was the recipient of a high-tackle in June last year, rugby hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons. While he was subbed shortly after the injury, he wasn’t immediately taken out of the game – leading to questions about how seriously his injury was taken.
More recently, Ted Richards admitted to considering retirement after his latest concussion injury. The 33 year old fullback has dealt with concussion before, but confessed this was the first time he was actually really worried. With high profile players hitting the spotlight more regularly and questions now arising over whether or not clubs should ban tackling in junior rugby, how does the future look for the game?
The future of the game
Video monitoring has been implemented at several games and there are always medical professionals on hand to assist with injuries – but these are far from preventative measures. Head injuries in rugby are largely accidental – caused by a particularly rough scrum or tackle – and therefore, minimising their risk poses a challenge. While there are practices now in place to assess a player’s head injury immediately after it’s happened, some people claim this isn’t conducive to a reliable outcome.
With Will Smith’s role in Concussion bringing the issue back into the spotlight, the media once again had cause to discuss the impact of head injuries. The need for Head Injury Assessments (HIAs) has also been widely debated, with many suggesting that stopping concussed players from returning to the field is the best course of action. So what’s next for the sport?
It’s difficult to predict how the future of rugby will look. There’ll always be challenges that go hand and hand with sport and exercise – but in a time when obesity is deemed to be more dangerous than ever, should we really be encouraging future generations to stay away from contact sports and physical activity?