Friday 6 December 2019

'Concussion in rugby getting like American football'

Roberto Wallace. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Roberto Wallace. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Daragh Small

Ex-Miami Dolphins star Roberto Wallace says rugby is going down the same route as NFL and concussion will become an increasing problem.

The 29-year-old played three seasons as a wide receiver with the Dolphins before he joined the Tennessee Titans. A native of Panama, Wallace is now a performance trainer in San Diego.

He was in Mayo last week, as he did an exchange with Breaffy's Aidan O'Shea as part of The Toughest Trade, a two-part documentary film commissioned by AIB that will air on RTE 2 next month.

Mayo were embroiled in controversy in their opening Allianz League clash against Cork when Lee Keegan remained on the field for a number of minutes after he took a knock to the head.

Wallace, who was held scoreless at full-forward as Breaffy defeated Parke 4-12 to 2-6 in a challenge match at the weekend, believes that concussion is a big problem.

"In my position in American football, it's not impossible to get a concussion because every time you put yourself out there you are at risk of potentially hurting yourself," he said.

"Concussion unfortunately is one of those things in American Football and rugby more so than Gaelic football, it's something you can't really avoid - especially those guys in rugby who are putting their head down a lot, and that's only going to get worse. They are putting their heads down and they are involved in big collisions.

"I wouldn't say that would be an issue in Gaelic for the simple fact that you are not attacking the man, you are attacking the ball. But in rugby and football people are being tackled and taken down."

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Wallace was born and raised in Panama City and went to San Diego State. When he began as a rookie with the Dolphins in 2010, the starting minimum salary for an NFL player was $390,000. That was increased by at least $50,000 per season as the player grew in experience, so the GAA was a difficult concept to fathom.

"You can't compare the GAA to American football, these guys can't dedicate 100pc of their time to the sport," he said. "In the NFL our practices are so scripted, they are exact times and periods. There are 22 periods, and each period is specific.

"There are 15 coaches and they all have a schedule, every day there is a new schedule printed. It's way, way different."

Wallace said he really enjoyed playing Gaelic football and paid tribute to all who welcomed him.

"The people here are so welcoming it's unbelievable. It's rare to me because in the States not everyone is like that," he said.

"It was an awesome experience. There are no words to describe how good, great and wonderful the experience has been.

"It's definitely a different experience for me. I haven't played in any kind of field like that.

"Definitely a new appreciation for the sport, what these guys do - it's just not easy. It's tough, it's consistent movement, consistent running for 30 minutes, there are no time-outs, there's no breaks. It's a tough sport."

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