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Monday 18 December 2017

Concussion crisis has to be knocked on head before tragedy finally strikes

Rory Best, Ireland, leaves the field accompanied by Dr. Eanna Falvey, team doctor
Rory Best, Ireland, leaves the field accompanied by Dr. Eanna Falvey, team doctor

When former England hardman and notorious warrior Lewis Moody errs on the side of caution, you know there is a case to answer.

Amidst all the brouhaha about England igniting their World Cup campaign at The Millennium Stadium, the ghastly sight of Wales' best player George North being knocked out twice in one international is what will live longest in the memory.

First, England second row David Attwood's accidental stray boot caught North flush in the head in the 30th minute to leave him motionless on the grass.

He was treated, withdrawn for assessment and sent back out into battle.

Later, North was met with the head of his own hooker Richard Hibbard in another unfortunate incident and appeared to be out cold before he hit the ground in the 62nd minute.

It was a sickening sight.

For that, North received no call to the sideline, no examination.

He just played on regardless of the imminent dangers to his health that come with being knocked out twice within an hour.

"Why was George North not taken off, terrible decision by the medics. Out cold," tweeted Moody.

He was backed up by former Scotland international Rory Lamont, who encapsulated every right-thinking person who saw the concussions.

"George North knocked out twice in one game and still on the pitch. How is this still happening?"

Wales coach Warren Gatland, not exactly immune to controversy, pleaded innocence in the matter.

"Didn't see (the) second-one but George North passed all protocols first time.

"We'll have to see how he is over next few days," he said.

World Rugby issued a statement on the matter around lunchtime on Saturday, demanding a full report from the Welsh Rugby Union "seeking to establish from the WRU whether all concussion management protocols were appropriately followed."

Within the hour, the Welsh RFU posted out their own statement.

"While George is currently symptom free, retrospective video review of the second incident identified the mechanism of injury which was previously unsighted on the field of play.

"This review has warranted the medical team to manage the player as concussed although the player currently has no signs and symptoms.

"He will now undertake a graduated return to play protocol with multiple follow up cognitive and physical tests."

Later on Saturday afternoon, Ireland hooker Rory Best was removed from action due to a blow to the head in the 63rd minute.

"Rory's fine. He did get a knock and we decided to err on the side of caution with him," said Ireland coach Joe Schmidt, directly after Ireland's match.

"He'll follow the return to play protocols just because we want to be fairly careful there."

There has to be serious consideration, even action taken, over an issue which damages individuals and the overall image of the game.

It is only a matter of time before a tragedy will be be played out live on our screens.

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