Saturday 16 December 2017

'I have been knocked out and carried on' - Kevin Doyle says football has woken up to dangers of head injuries

Kevin Doyle after getting a bang to the head in a 2014 friendly against Costa Rica
Kevin Doyle after getting a bang to the head in a 2014 friendly against Costa Rica
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

Ireland striker Kevin Doyle has revealed that he carried on in games after he had been knocked unconscious earlier in his career, but he admits the culture of the game has now changed to ensure he would never put his health at risk again.

Doyle is a doubt for Ireland's vital World Cup qualifier against Wales later this month after confirming he will miss Colorado Rapid’s MLS game against New York Red Bulls this weekend on medical advice, as he has been ordered to take a seven day break following concussion in a pre-season game.

The striker will be assessed again next week before a decision is made on his return to action, with the 33-year-old conceding that his views on head injuries have changed since he made his breakthrough in English football at Reading 12 years ago.

Doyle played in the infamous game that saw his compatriot Stephen Hunt accidentally clatter into Chelsea keeper Petr Cech and inflict a fractured skull during a game at Reading’s Madejski Stadium back in 2006, while the game was rocked earlier this year when Hull's Ryan Mason fractured his skull in a clash at Stamford Bridge.

High profile incidents of that nature have helped to spark a change in mindset among the modern generation of players, with Doyle suggesting his own attitude has been transformed in recent years.

“There have been times when I have been knocked out cold in a game and would get back up and carry on, even if I had a headache,” he tells us.

“It was not the done thing to do in the game to do to the physio and say you had a headache or that you should come off. You just dusted yourself down, throw a bit of water on your face and get on with it. That is the way things were done.

“To be honest you probably didn’t want to look like a wimp in front of your team-mates by saying you needed to sit out a game due to getting a knock on the head, but the education we are all given in this area now has is so different to what it was when I started out in the game.

“We get the medical staff telling us about the dangers of head injuries all the time now and everything is taken much more seriously these days. That has to be a good thing.”

Doyle played in Colorado’s first game of the MLS season as they secured a 1-0 win against New England Revolution, but he confided in the club’s doctors after the game and was sent for tests.

“I just didn’t feel right,” he confirms. “The initial concussion happen in our final pre-season game, when the keeper went to punch the ball and punched me instead.

“I didn’t feel to bad to be honest, but the headache has been there ever since and it didn’t feel right as I looked up to head the ball in the game last weekend.

“The doctors had a look at me and decided that I should have a week off, before another assessment next week.

“Physically, I feel like I could play in New York this weekend, but you need to be aware of the dangers of head injuries these days. I could have said nothing and played this weekend, but there is no point in taking a risk.”

Doyle admits research into the dangers of heading footballs have unsettled him in recent years, with the training he did in his youth back home in Wexford now a route he would advise his own kids to follow.

“I remember my brother booting balls at my head for hours and hours in our back garden when I was a kid and you wouldn’t allow that to happen now,” he adds.

“I’d also stay for extra training when I was playing at Reading working on my headers, but it might not be good for your long term health.

“Footballs are lighter now than they were back in the 1960s and 70s now, but you hear about the problems some of the players from that era are having now and it's horrible.

“We all had to wake up to the reality that concussion and banging your head with anything too many times in a day is not good for you.

“Kids under the age of 10 are not allowed to head the ball in American soccer games now and that may be the sensible way to go at that age. There is no point in taking any risks.”

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