Wednesday 27 March 2019

Ryan is sixth Irish international to quit because of concussion

Dominic Ryan suffered disturbing symptoms after being hurt while tackling Wales and Lions wing George North. Photo: Sportsfile
Dominic Ryan suffered disturbing symptoms after being hurt while tackling Wales and Lions wing George North. Photo: Sportsfile
Jerome Reilly

Jerome Reilly

Former Leinster rugby star Dominic Ryan has confirmed his retirement because of concussion. He is the sixth professional in recent years, who all played with the Irish provinces and represented the national side, to have had to quit because of brain trauma concerns.

In September last year, Irish soccer international Kevin Doyle also walked away from sport because of concussion issues.

Ryan's retirement comes just over three months after New Zealand-born Ulster player Jared Payne was forced out of the game after a head injury sustained while he was playing with the British and Irish Lions in New Zealand last year.

Payne had played 78 times for Ulster and was capped for Ireland 20 times.

Others to retire in recent years because of concussion include Declan Fitzpatrick, who won seven caps for Ireland, the former Leinster captain Kevin McLaughlin, who played eight times for Ireland, Nathan White of Leinster, Connacht and Ireland and Dave McSharry (Connacht and Ireland A).

In an interview with The Irish Times published yesterday, Ryan, who played 100 times for Leinster and was capped by Ireland, outlined a series of disturbing symptoms which followed a serious but initially undetected injury he sustained while playing for his last club, Leicester Tigers, in September last year.

Ryan was hurt as he tackled the Wales and Lions wing George North in a game against Northampton Saints. He received a blow to the head but this was masked by the fact that he was also badly winded in the tackle.

Because the blow to the head went unnoticed, including by himself, he did not undergo the mandatory head injury assessment during or after the match.

Among the symptoms he later suffered were sleepless nights, migraines that lasted two weeks, flashing white lights in his vision, dizziness, nausea and pounding pressure in his head.

Two games after he sustained that injury tackling North, Ryan recalled to rugby writer John O'Sullivan how he felt unwell after he was hit with a "gentle tap" during a lineout while playing against Gloucester.

"The next thing I am on the ground, the ball is under my stomach and I'm lying flat on it. Getting up from the maul, I was a bit shook," he said.

"When you get knocked out briefly, you start to think, 'was that a big bang, was I stunned or knocked out?' I thought to myself, 'I'll shake it off', so I played on.

"Two or three minutes later I was aware of feeling dazed, disorientated and had started seeing big patches of white lights."

After his neurologist sidelined him for 12 weeks, the former Leinster stalwart suffered more symptoms.

"I went out to watch the lads train and I started to get tunnel vision. My peripheral vision blurred and I got white patches that flashed. It resembled looking at fireworks through binoculars. I could only see what was in front of me. I said to myself, 'Jesus Christ this is bad'. It brought on the worst migraine.

"This was the worst. I couldn't talk on the phone. I found people talking in my ear irritating. I remember going out for coffee with the lads, it wasn't even a sunny day and I had my sunglasses on. It sounds stupid but that little bit of extra darkness the sunglasses afforded me helped.

"That migraine lasted two weeks. It was intense for about five or six days. Going over ramps in a car I had to ask whoever was driving to slow down, crawl over them, because my brain was properly humming, absolutely pounding."

On his decision to retire, Ryan said: "It's a weight off my shoulders... with a bit of distance I can see it was a no-brainer to retire. I can see now I was literally putting myself in harm's way."

Ryan's one cap for Ireland was won in 2014.

Leinster paid tribute yesterday in their official Twitter account: "Very best of luck in the next chapter Dippy. #LeinsterFamily"

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