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Why rugby has to tackle its concussion problem

Terms such as ‘taking a knock’ obscure the devastating effects of brain injuries suffered on the pitch. The sport’s culture needs to change

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Treatment: Kyle Sinckler after a concussion during the Rugby World Cup 2019 final between England and South Africa. Photo by David Rogers/Getty

Treatment: Kyle Sinckler after a concussion during the Rugby World Cup 2019 final between England and South Africa. Photo by David Rogers/Getty

English hooker Steve Thompson celebrates winning the 2003 Rugby World Cup, a final he can no longer remember. Photo by Odd Andersen/Getty

English hooker Steve Thompson celebrates winning the 2003 Rugby World Cup, a final he can no longer remember. Photo by Odd Andersen/Getty

Co Antrim schoolboy rugby player Ben Robinson, who died from second impact syndrome

Co Antrim schoolboy rugby player Ben Robinson, who died from second impact syndrome

Karen Walton and Peter Robinson, the mother and father of schoolboy Ben Robinson, speaking to the media in Belfast after an inquest into his death. Photo by Paul Faith/PA

Karen Walton and Peter Robinson, the mother and father of schoolboy Ben Robinson, speaking to the media in Belfast after an inquest into his death. Photo by Paul Faith/PA

Ireland's Dan Sheehan of Ireland is tackled by Kyle Sinckler of England as Bundee Aki watches during the Six Nations match in March at Twickenham. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Ireland's Dan Sheehan of Ireland is tackled by Kyle Sinckler of England as Bundee Aki watches during the Six Nations match in March at Twickenham. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Hana Walker Brown, author of A Delicate Game

Hana Walker Brown, author of A Delicate Game

A Delicate Game: Brain Injury, Sport and Sacrifice by Hana Walker-Brown

A Delicate Game: Brain Injury, Sport and Sacrifice by Hana Walker-Brown

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Treatment: Kyle Sinckler after a concussion during the Rugby World Cup 2019 final between England and South Africa. Photo by David Rogers/Getty

It looks choreographed when you see it slowed down, the way the bodies intertwine; limbs tucked around limbs, bones colliding with bone, flesh pressed against flesh, until they become one mound of man moving in slow motion until, as if shocked by electricity, the players jolt back into play. All but one.

It’s mid-March, England are playing Ireland in the Six Nations. Tighthead prop Kyle Sinckler looks like he is knocked out, if only for a few seconds, lying prone on the ground following an impact. The collision is heavy but quick. He is taken off the field of play and does not return for the second half of the match after failing a head injury assessment.


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