Tuesday 26 September 2017

'I wasn't myself' - Leinster scrum coach John Fogarty on how concussion ended his career

Leinster scrum coach John Fogarty
Leinster scrum coach John Fogarty
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

With the start of the Rugby World cup just nine days away and the scene of Conor Murray lying helpless on the ground against England four days ago still in our mind, the issue of concussion in sport is back.

Leinster scrum coach John Fogarty was forced into retirement due to the affect concussions began having on his day-to-day life.

The former Ireland international lay the blame at this own tackling technique and was slow to seek medical help.

Murray was forced from the field after suffering his third concussion in under a year against England at Twickenham and Jonny Sexton recently had to take a 12-week mid-season break from the game to deal with the symptoms of repeated concussions.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast with Ivan Yates, Fogarty said: "For me, initially, it was getting a bang on the head. The symptoms would have been headaches, short-term memory loss around the game and over time they kind of developed into more emotional stuff... not being yourself, not wanting to do a whole lot.

"That's when it became very unmanageable for me.

"In the end, there were more serious symptoms that affected the people around you as much as yourself. That's when it became unmanageable and I had to pull the pin.

"I didn't see this as an injury in any way, shape or form. I saw it as an issue with my tackling, I'd throw my head to the wrong side and I'd get hit on the side of the head.

"I'd feel exhausted after the game, I'd have a headache after the game and cranky the next day.

"I went to the tackling guy, I didn't go to the doctor with this thing at all.

"I picked up quite a few of them and had to deal with them in the last years of my rugby."

It was difficult for Fogarty to shake the effects of the repeated brain injuries.

"For about six months afterwards, my short term memory was an issue for me. I was coaching at the time, I was coaching out at De La Salle at the time and I'd be caoching a team and I'd know the guy in front of me but I couldn't recognise his name and I'd call them by their jersey colours," he added

"The mood stuff took a bit of time to go away.

"I've three little girls so I have times when I'm naturally stressful so I put it down to that and not knocks in the head.

"All is good now."

While concussions will continue to happen, Fogarty believes that educating young people on how to tackle and carry the ball properly will help cut down the instances of head injuries.

"The game is a gladiatorial type game where everyone want to do the best for the team," he continued.

"Concussion will be in this sport, it's a collision sport.

"We can minimise it through correct training

"I couldn't coach an under-10 how to tackle, i could coach a senior player how to tackle. My tackle technique stayed with me from when I was younger and that's what caused a lot of the problems."

Asked whether making scrum-caps mandatory would help, he said: "I don't think they help with a concussion. For me it was a blow to the head and how my head spun, that caused an issue. A helmet can help with cuts to the head."

IRUPA, the Irish rugby players union, has held a long association with the Headway charity which helps people living with brain injury.

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