Over the last three days, we have recounted the stories of three recently retired players, each of whom has offered a fascinating insight into the often difficult nature of a professional rugby career.
Andrew Browne, Jonny Holland and Dan Tuohy's searing honesty should be welcomed as their openness has allowed many people to develop a greater understanding of the mental and physical toll that the demands of top-level rugby can have on the mind, as well as the body.
It is important to note that these are not isolated cases because the increasingly attritional nature of the sport means that many others will continue to be forced into similarly early retirements.
In the last few weeks alone, Munster have lost two senior players - Tyler Bleyendaal (30) and Brian Scott (27) - both of whom should currently be in the prime of their careers, not reflecting on them.
In this fourth and final part of our 'School of Hard Knocks' series, the harrowing tale of Leinster flanker Kevin McLaughlin serves as another stark reminder of the dangers of concussion in rugby
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Nowadays, the extent of combative sport that Kevin McLaughlin subjects his body to amounts to wrestling with his two-year old son in the back garden. Even then, he has to be careful not to accidentally bang his head.
It's a world away from the ferocious competitor whose reputation with Leinster and Ireland was forged on an ultra-aggressive approach that stemmed from his love of the physicality within rugby.
McLaughlin's no-nonsense style of play invariably came at a cost, however, as countless knee, ankle, hip, and shoulder surgeries meant that he was locked in a constant battle with his body.
Such was severity of many of the setbacks, early retirement never felt too far away throughout his eight-year professional career, before a worrying bout of concussion eventually took the decision out of his hands, as the Dublin native called it a day in 2015, two days after his 31st birthday.
Ultimately, it was a small price to pay for the sake of his long-term health, because as soon as the doctors laid bare how much he would be putting himself at risk if he continued playing, it was an easy decision to walk away.
By that stage, McLaughlin had experienced enough frightening concussive symptoms to know that it was a problem he could not ignore.
Five years after hanging up his boots, thankfully McLaughlin is now symptom-free, which reassures him that he did the right thing.
He counts himself lucky, however, because he has seen the devastating impact that concussion has had and continues to have on other players across various sports.
When the former flanker watches the attritional nature of the current game, he wonders how he managed to last as long as he did.
McLaughlin's trouble began in November 2014 when he was knocked out cold after catching an elbow into the head as he attempted to make a tackle during a PRO12 game against Treviso.
Although he had previously experienced concussive symptoms, nothing had compared to how badly his problem spiralled out of control. Minimal contact suddenly became an issue, which in a world dominated by brutal physicality, was never going to end well.
Less than a year after the sickening blow to the head, and having suffered with dizzy spells in the months that followed, McLaughlin retired, hoping that he hadn't left it too late.
"I count myself very lucky. Jesus, I really do," McLaughlin admits. "I had a good career and, yeah, I retired at 31. I played with a really good team, won some trophies, had good fun, but I'm glad I came out the other end of that.
"The concussion thing was scary, and while I don't worry about it anymore, I definitely did worry when I retired.
"All the press and opinions in the media around it was challenging because you are trying to sort your own head out.
"You are seeing all this stuff - everyone has got an opinion on concussion. You had all these films coming out, and I was trying to sort my own stuff. But I was supported really well by my family and friends. I pretty much, touch wood, have no issues with my head whatsoever now. But if I got a wallop on it, I would probably get back some of the symptoms I used to have.
"After I retired, I had to be very careful if I even clipped my head at the top of a doorway or anything because I would end up feeling a little bit off.
"That has just got better and better. Honestly, I have nothing to report now compared to what I have seen from other people who have struggled with concussion around concentration, dizziness, light - really severe symptoms. To be honest, I never really had any of that. Mine was always contact-related.
"Now, apart from wrestling with my two-year old son, that's about the limit of the contact I have. As long as he doesn't hit me a headbutt, I'll be okay!"
McLaughlin's cautionary tale is a reminder of the importance of not ignoring concussive symptoms.
In a dressing-room dominated by big personalities, and not to mention the fact that the eight-times-capped Ireland international had just been named Leinster captain, McLaughlin could have chosen to stay quiet.
Instead, having recognised that it was a serious issue, he was helped by those around him, including Leo Cullen, who was hugely supportive.
"I think I was lucky to make it to 31," McLaughlin continues.
"Part of that was because I was a relatively late starter. I wasn't playing regularly until my mid-twenties.
"I spent so much time injured as well. I was just really prone to injury unfortunately. Part of it was how I played.
"I just loved contact, tackling - that kind of stuff came naturally to me. I loved throwing my body around from a young age.
"The more you do that with bigger and better players, the more likely you are to get beaten up, so that was always going to be a challenge for me."
McLaughlin's body was in such tatters by the end of his career that even if he hadn't suffered with concussion, there were enough other issues to hold him back in his post-rugby life.
"The body is good, but I'm not out playing five-a-side now," he explains.
"I'm still able to stay fit and healthy, but I have to be careful with my knee and my hip. They took a fair few beatings over the years. My shoulder is the same.
"I had about seven or eight operations on my left knee. I just have to be really careful of that or it will blow up.
"Then my left hip also had quite a bit of damage done to it too, so again, I just need to be careful with it or it will blow up and get very sore.
"I don't really play tennis, football, golf, anything like that, but I have actually got quite into swimming. My mum is a very strong sea swimmer, so I have been doing some of that with her.
"I have entered some competitions and stuff - at a low enough level, but I'm actually doing some level of competing for the first time since I retired from rugby.
"It's just about challenging myself in that way and staying fit in general. It's really good for the mind as well."
Since retiring, McLaughlin has been working with Kitman Labs, an Irish company that specialises in sports performance analytics.
Having played 115 times for a club like Leinster - and still following them closely as they continue to set the highest standards under his former comrade in arms Cullen - McLaughlin is well placed to offer his input, after managing to make that tricky adjustment to life after rugby. Even in that regard, he considers himself fortunate to have been able to start a new career so soon after retiring.
"I'm very, very lucky because I know a lot of guys take a long, long time to really get over that transition," McLaughlin maintains.
"Once I started getting going on my own career, you just start forgetting about concussion and the injury stuff because you are too busy.
"Being busy is important and finding something that you are challenged by is actually probably the most important thing when a rugby player transitions out of the game.
"You have spent a long time being challenged in a high-pressure environment and any advice I would give to a player now is: find something else that challenges you. Rugby players are so competitive. They like doing well when put in hard circumstances.
"If you go into a cushy number, which is the temptation for some players when they come out, you can find yourself in a position here you are not satisfied with your career.
"But a lot of lads honestly just don't know what they want to do. It's not easy because you are really good at something and then you step out of it.
"All your peers are 10/15 years ahead of you and you are here just scrambling trying to find a job that (a) you like and (b) you are good at. Some people like me get relatively lucky, but other lads take a long time to find that thing. That can be a tough few years."
McLaughlin is now very much out the other side and has been a helpful sounding board for former team-mates who have since taken the same path.
He agrees that early retirements in rugby will continue to become increasingly common. "The game has got harder," he says.
"I look at some of the specimens playing now... honestly! I think the game has got faster, harder, more physical. I love watching it for all those reasons, but it's better for me to be watching now!
"The thing about rugby is though, it always looks worse when you are not playing. I remember looking at it when I was injured and thinking, 'Jesus, that looks brutal.'
"But the minute you get back onto the pitch, it just feels normal again.
"I feel I was lucky that I played when I did. For me, the game was at a manageable pace then.
"I became less reliant on rugby because of injuries. Every season, I would get at least one injury which would keep me out.
"Actually, I think 2010 was the only season I went without an injury. I played something like 32 games and was about to go on my first summer tour with Ireland.
"During the last game of the season (Celtic League final), Stan Wright landed on my knee and blew it out. It was the worst injury I ever got.
"The thing about injuries is, you build up this resilience and you get used to managing yourself when you are out of the game.
"That knee injury was the toughest one I had mentally because it was seven months on the sideline. I did quite a bit of work during that time - trying to figure out things I could do that weren't rugby-related."
Given the amount of torment that he endured over the years, McLaughlin could easily hold a grudge against rugby, yet there isn't an ounce of bitterness towards the game, because it provided the 35-year old with some of the best days of his life, at a time when Leinster dominated Europe.
"I look back on my career with huge fondness," he adds. "I count myself lucky to have played through a pretty golden era with Leinster.
"I was really gutted not to make the 2011 World Cup squad because I was probably playing my best rugby at that point and thought I had a really good chance.
"I'm still a big Leinster and Ireland fan. I watch all the games and get involved in that way, and I'm more than happy with that.
"I probably miss aspects of rugby, but overall, no, I don't really miss it.
"I'm pretty happy with my new life. I would miss the camaraderie, some of the friendship and the buzz you get from playing a big game, but you also don't really miss the hard parts.
"Some of the grind and some of the rollercoaster of emotions - you're up, you're down, you're injured. Overall, I don't really miss it."
Five years on from his final game with Leinster, McLaughlin is grateful to be feeling back to himself again, because when it comes down to it, no career for no amount of money is worth sacrificing one's health.
"Exactly, I totally agree," McLaughlin concurs.