Saturday 23 September 2017

It's irresponsible to diagnose from sofa, warns Erasmus

Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmus Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmus Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

It has become almost a sport within a sport. As rugby games progress, increasingly aware fans and pundits are watching for head injuries, ready to call concussion and produce GIFs for their social media discussions.

On Saturday, Conor Murray collided heavily with Tim Swinson and lay prone.

His former Lions team-mate Alex Corbisiero was the most high-profile voice to declare that the Ireland scrum-half needed to be removed from the field of play.

Murray played on after his initial treatment, but was subsequently removed for a Head Injury Assessment (HIA), passed it and finished the game. He has passed subsequent HIAs and has been cleared to play this weekend by an independent neurologist.

Yet the storm surrounding the incident has led to an investigation from Champions Cup organisers EPCR, who will look to establish whether the player should have been removed instantly.

Munster director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has defended the province's role in the incident and has warned against the dangers of diagnosis from the other side of a television screen.

"Even myself as a coach it's a very dangerous thing to sit there and make a judgement like a medical doctor on medical conditions," he said.

"It's almost like googling an illness on the internet and making a diagnosis.

"I totally trust the medical team. If a guy gets injured I will wait for the info from them.

"Although I'm sitting there and I played the game and have seen injuries a lot of times, I am not qualified to make calls like that.

"It might be very irresponsible to make assumptions watching the game when you weren't part of the action on the ground. I think it's a big responsibility that we all adhere to that."

Erasmus says Munster will co-operate fully with EPCR as they look to establish the facts and believes that the aim of any investigation will be to improve the procedures rather than find fault with the province.

"I don't think people should call it an inquiry," he said.

"I think it is working together with the tournament organisers. The only thing they are trying to do is to make sure the HIA and the player welfare is getting better and better.

"I have been coaching now for more than 15 years and I think the medical team was spot on the way they did stuff.

"HIA only came in in 2012 and it will always be a system that is evolving, so what the tournament organisers are trying to do is make sure that everybody adheres to that and is it the best protocol and did we do it the right way.

"We even have an extra system called 'Myplayxplay' which we use next to the field where the medical staff can look at an incident after it happened on the field. So I think the guys were spot on and I think Conor is fit and ready to go."

Erasmus does not believe the inclusion of independent doctors would improve the HIA process.

"I don't think so," he said. "World Rugby is trying its best and the European Cup organisers are doing their best but I am also satisfied that all the things we put in place are over and above the normal protocol and regulations.

"Medical doctors have got an oath and they look after player welfare. You will lose a player's commitment towards the club, and the coaches and the medical team if you put them back on the park or risk them and you will suffer later in your coaching career if players don't trust you.

"Our doctors and our medical staff will never, never jeopardise a player's welfare, so I don't think it's (independent doctor) is needed."

Although Murray's HIA has been a major topic of conversation this week, Erasmus' main focus has been on Racing 92, who visit Thomond Park on Saturday.

Munster are already in the quarter-finals and need a win to ensure that knock-out game will be at home, while the visiting French champions are out of the competition and are likely to send over a second-string team.

But Erasmus says his side won't take the task for granted.

"Complacency is definitely not a problem," he said. "Leicester at home and away is a prime example of us not handling the intensity of a team that is doing its best to try and turn its season around.

"This weekend we will face Racing who smashed Leicester last weekend and they are trying to turn their season around and that's a very dangerous team.

"They have individual brilliant players who can rip you apart. Even the Glasgow game at home they could have scored four tries in the first 20 minutes which they didn't and that would have presented a different situation for them.

"If we win this game we can have a home quarter-final and to repay the crowds who have been supporting us at home and away."

Irish Independent

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