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'It's tough to see someone like Dippy have to retire at a young age'

Leinster’s Jack Conan was sad to see his former team-mate forced to hang up his boots.

WHILE THERE IS no doubt rugby players feel deep sympathy at seeing a fellow pro having to retire early due to injury, one has to wonder if they do their best not to think about it too much beyond that.

The brutal realities of the sport at the highest level are never underlined more than when a player is forced to hang their boots up before their time.

Dominic Ryan is the latest example, finished at the age of 28 after listening to medical advice and retiring due to concussion.

Dominic Ryan Dominic Ryan confirmed his retirement over the weekend. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

The flanker played with Leicester Tigers briefly last season before suffering the brain injury, but it was at Leinster that he made his name, debuting in 2009 and playing for the province more than 100 times before his departure in 2017.

For his former team-mates at the province, confirmation of Ryan’s retirement was jarring.

“It’s tough to see someone like Dippy have to retire at a young age,” says Leinster number eight Jack Conan. “I would have spent a lot of years with him here. Before anything else, he is a fantastic bloke and was a great character around this place. 

“If you went to everyone, from lads who barely knew him to lads who had played with him for years, they would all speak so highly of him.  

“That’s a testament to the character he was. It’s upsetting to see someone like him having to step away from the game at such a young age in the manner that he did.”

Ryan revealed the scary reality of his concussion issue in an interview with the Irish Times last weekend.

Leicester Tigers have since defended how they handled Ryan’s head injury last season. 

From a Leinster point of view, Conan is in little doubt that he’s in safe hands when it comes to concussion, though he acknowledges that even the best medical teams in the world can miss what is sometimes not an obvious injury.

Jack Conan and Dominic Ryan Conan and Ryan on Leinster A duty in 2014. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“The medical staff and the physios are so on the ball with regards to the HIA and the return-to-play protocols,” says Conan. “Sometimes concussions can go unnoticed, not through anyone’s fault. These things happen.

“To be fair to the lads here, they’re probably the best in Europe at being on the ball for it.

“So I know they’ll keep on working to keep us safe, and I think the onus is on players to put their hand up more and be able to say, ‘Look, I’ve taken a knock here. I’m not okay here.’ And we’ll keep growing and working on that aspect and be better at it.”

Rugby appears to have made some progress as a sport in terms of players highlighting potential head injuries to medical staff themselves, but it’s doubtful whether it is yet the norm.

“I think that’s the moment when the decision needs to be taken out of your hands,” continues Conan.

“It needs the assistant doctor or the independent doctor on the day to spot that and say, ‘I think he’s taken a knock. We’ll just assess him.’

“Yes, the onus is on players if they’ve taken a knock but I personally have only had one concussion in my career. I’ve been lucky enough at this stage that I don’t have many, so I can’t speak from that point of view.”

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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