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'I'm luckily not suffering from symptoms so I didn't feel it was right to get involved'

Bernard Jackman told The42 Rugby Weekly about his experiences with concussion.

Bernard Jackman was approached to be part of the legal action.
Bernard Jackman was approached to be part of the legal action.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

BRAIN INJURY HAS dominated the rugby agenda in recent days since ex-professional players Steve Thompson and Alix Popham’s shocking accounts of being diagnosed with early onset dementia and probable CTE despite still being in their early 40s.

Thompson and Popham are two of an eight-strong group set to bring legal action against World Rugby, the English Rugby Football Union, and the Welsh Rugby Union on account of the serious damage that has been done to their brains by careers in rugby.

This week’s episode of The42 Rugby Weekly saw former Leinster and Ireland hooker Bernard Jackman recount his own experiences with concussion as he revealed that the law firm representing this group of ex-players reached out to him earlier this year.

“I was contacted during the summer, a couple of unsolicited emails, so I knew this was coming,” said Bernard.

“The gist of the email I got was that they were a London law firm and looking to get together a group of players who had suffered concussion or are suffering post-playing to take a case.

“I didn’t reply to the email, to be honest, because I’m luckily and thankfully not suffering from any symptoms so I didn’t feel it was right for me to get involved in it.”

Jackman sustained several concussions in the final stages of his playing career before retiring in 2010 and moving into coaching, but he explained that he didn’t actually hang up his boots because of head injuries.

“There is a bit of a misconception. I didn’t actually retire from concussion. I didn’t have an insurance claim against the insurance company because of concussion.

“I suffered concussion in my last year and it was around the time that more evidence came out, mainly from American sports. I got involved with Acquired Brain Injury Ireland to try and highlight how naive we were being as players and probably how bad an example we were giving to amateur players and kids by not respecting concussion as a serious injury.

“I didn’t retire because of concussion, I retired because my body was banjaxed and concussion was part of that.

“I wasn’t honest with the doctors, I covered up a lot of concussions – which obviously isn’t very intelligent of me – but I wanted to make sure that others didn’t feel the need to do that, so that’s why I got involved in it.

bernard-jackman-shows-off-his-medal Jackman after Leinster's 2009 Heineken Cup success. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“Thankfully I’m not suffering now as we have seen some players are. I have huge sympathy for them but because I have no symptoms, it wasn’t something that was relevant for me to get involved in now.”

Bernard, who coached Grenoble and the Dragons and is still involved at an amateur level with Bective Rangers FC, provided insight into how concussion is treated in the modern professional game, as well as discussing the levels of contact involved in training.

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He also explained that he believes rugby is a safe sport and is happy for his son to continue playing.

But he will be watching the case involving these former pro players with great interest.

“To be honest, I wasn’t aware of Steve Thompson suffering to the level. Alix Popham is a guy I got to know when I was at the Dragons and he had a couple of business interests but again, I had no idea he was suffering and that’s probably the shock for me.

“There has been a hesitancy up until now to open up around how people have been doing in that circle of the rugby network.

“It’s shocking what we’ve heard from those guys and the interviews were scary and I felt sorry for them. You’d have to imagine that there are others suffering so it’s going to be an interesting case.

“I suppose from a legal point of view, I’d imagine they need to find negligence on behalf of the unions or World Rugby and I’m sure it’s going to be hotly-contested.

“It seems to be different from the NFL case where they took a group action against the NFL, this seems to be – from my limited legal experience – that they’re running a test case with the most obvious examples and from that, others will follow.”

Elsewhere on this week’s episode of The42 Rugby Weekly, Bernard, Gavan Casey, and Murray Kinsella previewed the massive Champions Cup clashes for Ulster, Leinster, Connacht, and Munster this weekend.

You can listen to The42 Rugby Weekly below or on your favourite podcast app.

Bernard Jackman, Gavan Casey, and Murray Kinsella discuss concussion in rugby and preview four massive European games for the provinces:


Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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