Sunday 16 December 2018

Ex-soccer star Doyle reveals full extent of head injury trauma

Pain game: Kevin Doyle was stretchered off during the clash with Switzerland in March 2016. Photo: David Maher
Pain game: Kevin Doyle was stretchered off during the clash with Switzerland in March 2016. Photo: David Maher
Jerome Reilly

Jerome Reilly

Former Republic of Ireland striker Kevin Doyle has revealed for the first time the full extent of the chronic concussion problems which forced him out of the game and left him dazed and unable to fully function every time he headed a football.

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Independent, Doyle admits that it was his wife Jenny who forced him to eventually come clean to his neurologist about the frightening symptoms he was suffering. It was a decision which spelled the end of his career as a professional because further medical tests confirmed real fears about his long-term health if he had continued to play football.

Speaking with close friend and international team-mate Stephen Hunt, Doyle admits that he used subterfuge to avoid heading the ball during training sessions.

"At the end of training, when they were doing crossing and finishing, I'm 34 so I'd say, 'lads, I'm saving my legs, I'm going in' and no one thought anything of it, so I got away with it. I had headaches after most games, some would be OK, but sometimes I really didn't feel well." He revealed that he concealed the true extent of his problems from medical staff - even when he returned to training after suffering yet another concussion.

"The last test you have to do before you are given permission to play, is to head the ball - the physio throws a ball from 10 yards, 15 yards, 20 yards, and you head it back to him. I did it but said nothing. I went home to the wife and said 'I'm f****d, I can't head the ball'. I just felt dazed."

And he recounts a deeply disturbing incident when he was playing with his last club, the Colorado Rapids, in the MLS and he was struck by a ball kicked by former England international Ashley Cole of LA Galaxy. "He was booting the ball clear, I was closing him down, as I turned he hit the ball a few yards from me, right on the back corner of my head and I instantly zonked out.

"Not knocked out, just gone, concussed. It was worse than I thought. I haven't seen it but the Rapids' physio had the clip on his computer and he said it was a bad one.

"My head just flopped and went 'bang, bang'. Then, it was weird. It was like I was looking down on myself playing. I went off, came back on for a few minutes and then just walked off the pitch and straight to the dressing room. I was just not with it at all."

Doyle's wife, Jenny, became increasingly concerned, despite his determination to play one more season as a professional.

"Jenny actually said, 'you are going to have to tell them everything'. So when I went to see the neurologist, had the tests, I told him I'd been having these headaches for the last six months to a year, and he was not impressed - 'why didn't you tell me in the last meeting?' He did more tests and told me I basically couldn't head the ball any more," he said.

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