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Dublin: 14 °C Tuesday 21 May, 2019

‘I would be happier if Brian stopped playing’ – Dr Barry O’Driscoll

The Ireland rugby star’s uncle was speaking at the Brain Injury in Sport conference.

Brian O'Driscoll having treatment during the recent November Internationals.
Brian O'Driscoll having treatment during the recent November Internationals.
Image: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

FORMER IRB MEDICAL advisor, and uncle of Leinster and Ireland star Brian O’Driscoll, has admitted he would prefer if his nephew was already retired.

Speaking to at the Acquired Brain Injury Ireland ‘Brain Injury in Sport’ conference in the Aviva Stadium today, O’Driscoll also said he understands his nephew’s reasons for playing on.

“In a way he’s a complete warrior. You can see that in the way he plays like a number seven as well as being a great runner with the ball but, yeah, I think I would be happier [if he had not continued to play].

“I mean, the chances of something happening to him are very slim but, he has his reasons to continue  – having 125 caps, being Ireland’s greatest ever player — but that’s the man.”

The former advisor to the IRFU also says he deliberately hasn’t spoken to the player about it because it puts him in a difficult position and because the former Ireland captain has admitted that this generation of rugby players are “guinea pigs”.

Earlier in the day, O’Driscoll stated that he believes that the IRB are deliberately misrepresenting concussion and that lawyers are “queueing up at the door” to sue the organisation, especially as they “guarantee a player going back with brain damage that they are at no risk”.

Indeed, you can sense the frustration in O’Driscoll’s voice when he talks about the IRB, specifically their attitude to the five-minute rule.

The rule, which gives medical professionals just five minutes to decide if a player is suffering from concussion on the sideline, is nonsensical according to O’Driscoll because the very fact you’re performing the test means that you suspect the player has concussion and that, alone, should be enough to take a player out of the game.

“It is not true to say, as the IRB claim, that this represents best practise. The guidelines, which are very good, don’t mention the five-minute rule.”

While O’Driscoll doesn’t think that any settlement will be as big as the one made this year by the NFL — for the simple reason that rugby’s governing bodies don’t have the NFL’s wealth — “the lawyers must be very worried at the IRFU and the IRB”.

“I think they are making their decisions on this because if they call off the five-minute rule now, they’re saying they were wrong and that will open the doors for anyone that now gets memory loss or migraine or whatever.”


Though O’Driscoll says today’s conference was revealing — especially as to how little players know about concussion — it did shine a light on the need for independent medical advisors to take the decisions out of their hands.

“The guidelines are available online,” he told, “but you can’t see any professional rugby players giving up an evening with their girlfriend or turning down a pint to read them.

“That’s why, as soon as a player is suspected of having a concussion, they should be seen by an independent medical advisor on the field.”

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Steve O'Rourke

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