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Dublin: 6 °C Friday 28 February, 2020

'It's scary to see players in that condition going back out to play'

Fergus McFadden and Brian O’Driscoll were subbed off after knocks to the head against Ulster last weekend.

McFadden was subbed off after a knock to the head against Ulster.
McFadden was subbed off after a knock to the head against Ulster.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

CONCUSSION IN RUGBY has burst back into the public consciousness recently, and rightly so.

Many viewers were outraged by the scenes in Toulouse’s recent Top 14 clash with Racing Métro, as Florian Fritz was allowed back onto the pitch despite having been knocked out when he collided with François van der Merwe’s knee.

Last weekend saw Leinster’s Brian O’Driscoll and Fergus McFadden substituted off following knocks to the head during their Pro12 semi-final against Ulster, a more positive manner of dealing with the situation.

Both players are back in training with Leinster later today, with McFadden claiming that he was not concussed by the heavy blow versus Ulster. The wing says he did not undergo a scan post-match, instead passing a questionnaire.

No I wasn’t [concussed], according to the doctors anyway. It was just a knock on the head and obviously the protocol these days is pretty sensitive around that area, as it should be, and they just weren’t taking any chances.

“I’ve taken it easy in the Irish camp and didn’t train too much, and I wasn’t symptomatic when I ran around. Thankfully it’s not too bad.”

The majority of players will attempt to play on when they take knocks to the head, although McFadden does feel that attitude is changing slowly. Still, the incident involving Fritz was a shock to the rugby system.

“I think there was a bit of an old school thing about it a few years ago where if the player said he was fine it was the old, ‘let him truck on if he wants to’.

Brian O'Driscoll goes off injured Brian O'Driscoll was withdrawn with suspected concussion last weekend, but has been cleared for training today. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“But you look at the likes of the Fritz case; it’s scary to see players in that condition going back out to play and you hope that the medical people just take care of you. In fairness to Leinster and the Irish medics, they don’t take any chances in that area.”

“The Fritz case is one stands out to people because he fell on the ground coming off and then went back on. It didn’t look like it was managed too well. Those cases are eye-openers, but I suppose when you’re not directly involved, I wouldn’t be thinking about it too much.”

McFadden has been diagnosed with concussion twice in his career so far, and points out that “there’s not many players you’d come across who haven’t been concussed.” Does he worry about what that damage might mean 20 years down the line?

I don’t know, I’d end up handing in my notice if I thought about it too much, I’d say. You look at someone like John Fogarty, who I played with in my first few years at Leinster; he probably had another three or four years left in his career and he had to retire.

“He was getting headaches and there was a period of time when it was pretty bad; he couldn’t really sit in a room with bright lights and he wasn’t sleeping. He had to retire off the back of that.

“So yeah, there are scary cases but you can’t think about it too much, you get on with it. I love rugby for the physicality and the collisions and this just comes as part and parcel of it.”

Fergus McFadden has teamed up with Specsavers, Ireland’s most trusted optician, to launch the search for Ireland’s most Unbreakable Friendship. Entry forms are available at any of the 47 Specsavers stores nationwide, or online at

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Murray Kinsella

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