Malcolm O’Kelly talks concussion in rugby

John Hand

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EX-LEINSTER and Ireland second-row Malcolm O’Kelly admits RTÉ’s programme on concussion in rugby concerns him.

Hidden Impact was aired on on October 5. It featured former Ireland and Munster out-half Ronan O’Gara who said he played fully concussed in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final against France in 2003.

O’Kelly, 41, made over 200 times for Leinster and won 92 caps with Ireland but says he only ever thinks he got concussion once.

He told thecircular.org: “I think I had one proper concussion in my life, against Australia in 05’.

“I literally just got absolutely walloped. I just ran into a brick wall and I was out before I hit the ground.

“It was one of those ones where people thought I was dead. It was horrific.
“I got every treatment. They looked after me incredibly well. That was OK and I never really suffered with it again.

“But when I was watching that programme it was definitely concerning.”

Precautions have been put in place where if a player takes a blow to the head in a match he must pass a head injury assessment (HIA) by a team doctor before being allowed back on to the pitch.

And the sport’s governing body World Rugby has admitted it is looking into potential law changes around tackling in an attempt to improve the sport’s safety.

O’Kelly reckons it is going in the right direction but for him a debate rises as to what concussion is.

He continued: “When I watched that program what was kind of new to me was, how do we say what concussion is.

“Rugby is a contact sport. I took plenty of bangs in my head. I had plenty of head collisions, but I’d shake it off and would be fine.

“The debate there for me is, I took many hits to my head, but I wasn’t knocked out. Does it mean that I’m going to get this disease later on in life? You don’t know.

“You can have lucky escapes as well. I got plenty of hits in the neck. I had a very stiff neck and would still be running around the place. I wouldn’t be able to look left or right. It’s a hard sport. It’s a tough sport.”

“Some guys are maybe just more prone to it. But I don’t know what the answer is.”

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John Hand