We assume Austin Healey can read.
If he can, then he will have surely not missed a number of stories over the last few months which tell the sad tale of a litany of professional rugby players having to give the game up through head injuries.
The list includes Leinster’s Kevin McLaughlin (concussion), Worcester’s Jonathan Thomas (epilepsy as a result of head injuries), Newport Gwent Dragons’ Matthew Pewtner (head injury) and New Zealand’s Steve Devine (concussions). It is a list that is growing as the hits get bigger and we begin to understand more how the brain reacts to severe and repeated head blows.
World Rugby has slowly started to react to the issue and introduced in to law a mandatory head injury assessment (HIA), which allows a temporary removal of a player to have an assessment where there is any clear signs or symptoms of concussion or suspected concussion.
The aim is to identify any potential health impacts to try and improve player safety and welfare.
What it isn’t meant to do is buy time for a player to recover from a relatively innocuous injury to another part of the body!
Who has suggested this? None other than Austin Healey.
Leicester v Racing Metro commentary
The “Leicester Lip” was commentating on the recent Champions Cup semi final game between his old club Leicester and Racing Metro when the Leicester outside half Freddie Burns suffered an ankle injury in a tackle.
Healey then suggested in commentary:
“The sensible thing to do here is – I know it’s not strictly legal but, to maybe claim that he has got a potential head injury and go off for a HIA. Get Williams [the substitute] on, maybe get him off, painkillers, strapped up and see how he is – get him to half time.
The problem is if he goes off now you can’t see him again for the rest of the game”.
The comment was picked up on twitter by @rugbyunited, who rightly pointed out the seriousness of the head injury protocol. Austin Healey then responded and carefully set out the reasons why he said it, before going on to explain as best he could why the HIA protocols are important and should not be abused by players or management:
There is probably not really any need to explain why what Healey said was completely inappropriate, but it is the complete lack of any awareness of the severity of the issue that is the most surprising aspect of the comment. HIAs are there to protect players, not gain a competitive advantage on the field.
Finally, when we heard this commentary our thoughts switched to another ex-Leicester player who seemed to struggle with ethics in rugby – Mr Dean Richards! Is there something in the water in Leicester?
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