Monday 18 December 2017

'Scaremongering' harms battle against concussion

Benezech's unfair dig at Schmidt and hysteria over Sexton black eye detract from real issue

Johnny Sexton with the eye injury he sustained in a collision with France’s Mathieu Bastareaud
Johnny Sexton with the eye injury he sustained in a collision with France’s Mathieu Bastareaud

Colm Parkinson

Despite winning the man of the match award, Johnny Sexton was frustrated speaking after Saturday's bruising encounter with France.

"Joe Schmidt gets told by the doctors who's fit and who's not and I don't know why he (Schmidt) got brought into it by this fella who seems to have an opinion on everything," he complained.

The 'fella' he was referring to, with an opinion on everything, was former France prop Laurent Benezech, who had spoken to Newstalk on Friday and said: "It's more than a mistake (playing Sexton). I'm really p***ed off - sorry for the word - by what (Schmidt) has done because he has no interest in his player's health."

I was shocked by his comments. Sexton was cleared to play the French game by independent neurologists in France and Ireland, the FFR concussion review committee, Racing Metro's medical team and the Irish medical team.

Does Benezech know more about concussion than medical experts? Does he really believe a rugby game matters more to these doctors than their patient's health?

Despite his being on a lucrative contract with Racing Metro, they agreed that he sit out important European Champions Cup games so he could recover sufficiently.

Before the France game, Sexton had been symptom-free for two months and had stood down from any contact rugby for three months.

Benezech also said in the interview that Sexton should start the game on the bench. I'm sorry, but how would that make any difference? The risk of concussion is always there.

Schmidt called it 'scaremongering'. I agree. The comments about our best player were unhelpful before a huge game.

Sexton was outstanding in the game and showed no ill effects of his time off. He took a knock to the eye during the game and the injury looked worse than it was. There was no concussion - people need to understand that a player can take a bang to the head without getting concussed.

I received many blows to the head during my football career and I was fine afterwards. The team doctor will know when a player is concussed.

I was concussed once during an U-21 match with Laois and agreed to be substituted because I wasn't sure where I was.

Rugby has a poor record in dealing with concussion. The George North incident two weeks ago was shocking and doesn't help the sport's reputation.

Shining a light on the concussion issue is massively important. We need to ensure things like North's don't happen again. But let's not get hysterical over every injury.

Irish Independent

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