Tuesday 25 October 2016

Dubs star Rory O'Carroll: I could quit if I get one more bang

Another serious concussion would leave O'Carroll thinking twice about football ...

Rory O'Carroll
Rory O'Carroll
Rory O'Carroll

RORY O'CARROLL says he would seriously consider walking away from Gaelic football if he were to receive one more bad concussion.

It's a big admission from the Dublin full-back - and yet a refreshingly honest declaration from someone who was left dazed and confused in an All-Ireland final and played on until the finish.

O'Carroll believes concussion is more of a problem for rugby than GAA, where the incident rate is "far lower" ... yet for all the 'life-or-death' metaphors that are routinely peddled about elite sport, he sees no merit in throwing the dice with brain injuries.

"Concussion can happen in anything but you have to look at where is it most likely to happen," O'Carroll said at yesterday's launch of AIG's Pupil Protector Insurance plan.

"I think it's far more likely to happen in the game of rugby rather than GAA. Having said that, I have experienced concussion before. I suppose the experts in Acquired Brain Injury Ireland would say three times is a knockout. If I was to receive another serious concussion, I would very seriously consider continuing playing."

That's a bold statement but, when the inevitable follow-up question was posed, he reiterated: "I would, yeah. Your career could be ... on average, ten years is a good one. Out of your life that could be an eighth. I would rather consider my future life, to be honest."

The 2013 All-Ireland decider was O'Carroll's only prior brush with concussion. Just before the hour, he collided with Mayo's Enda Varley and came off second best. Dublin had already used all five subs while the hamstrung Eoghan O'Gara was offering little more than nuisance value.

Following treatment O'Carroll stayed on. Dublin manager Jim Gavin later explained that they only found out the extent of his injury after the game, adding: "If a player is concussed, he should have been off."

Ironically, O'Carroll was already an ambassador for Acquired Brain Injury Ireland.

The Kilmacud clubman made another eye-catching contribution to the concussion debate last February with a letter to The Irish Times after Ireland rugby hooker Rory Best played against France, just a week after sustaining a head injury against Italy.

O'Carroll quoted Irish team manager Mick Kearney as saying: "Rory Best suffered concussion. He has been very well since the game and is completing a gradual return-to-play protocol".

His letter went on: "On the IRFU website is its guide to concussion which states: 'Minimum rest period post-concussion: 14 days. Minimum time-out: 21 days. Graduated return to play: 6 days'. Maybe it's just me, but reconciling the word 'minimum' and seeing Rory Best pummel head-first into countless rucks on Saturday begs the need for clarity."


At yesterday's launch, O'Carroll was asked if he felt he got an answer to his query.

"There is a gap of 14 days for an amateur and a professional," he replied. "The statement came from Acquired Brain Injury Ireland, from me via them, so the answer was directed back to them.

"I was informed the answer that they received was the (professional player) has superior access to medical care, the highest medical care there is ... I suppose that was the clarity around why there would be a two-week gap.

"Whether I believe that's sufficient or whether I think that's good enough, I would have my concerns. You can have better access to medical care, you can have better monitoring and all different technologies and ways to assess - but you can't treat a brain the way you treat a hamstring, you can't give deep-tissue massage to a brain. I wouldn't be convinced that the two-week gap is sufficient."

O'Carroll believes his own case-history of playing on in 2013 "wouldn't happen again. I also believe that there are proposals being brought to Congress. So with all these things, they take a lot of time".

He concluded: "I don't want to get into GAA bashing rugby. That's now what it's about. My views don't represent Dublin GAA or anybody else, apart from myself. Concussion happens in American Football which is played in Ireland and many other sports which are played in Ireland. It's not just a rugby thing. What sparked this was my letter to The Irish Times and that was specifically in relation to rugby."


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