DUBLIN FOOTBALLER RORY O’Carroll contacted a brain specialist in the wake of suffering concussion during last month’s All-Ireland senior final.
O’Carroll sought advice from ABI (Acquired Brain Injury) Ireland, who he is an ambassador for, according to the organisation’s CEO Barbara O’Connell.
“Rory rang us and said, ‘what do I do now to manage this?’ We walked him through a seven day return to play where he went back to live activity.
“He started doing swimming (after the seven days), he didn’t go back to sport and he rested for that week. He said no (he has no memory of it). I mean obviously he knows he got a concussion, that he was a bit woosy.”
O’Connell insists that it should not have been O’Carroll’s decision as to whether he stayed on the pitch after being concussed during the clash with Mayo.
“He’ll say he felt fine and they’ll (players) say they feel fine but when you actually observe them externally, they’re not fine.
“If you’re in a team that’s in an All-Ireland (final), you’re not going to take yourself off. His judgement was impaired. The decision shouldn’t be his, nor should it be any player’s.
“That’s where I would be saying, coaches and docs on the sideline need to take a very strong line about getting players off.”
The incident bolsters ABI Ireland’s argument that proper guidelines need to be adhered in removing players from the pitch in such scenarios.
“We’re trying to get the message out that players have to be taken off the pitch and that anybody on the sideline has to take that responsibility.
“There are some sideline tests that are done but, generally, the last one is to ask the player ‘do you feel alright?’ If they say, yes, I’m fine, the player goes back on the pitch.
Barbara O’Connell (left) of ABI Ireland with Mark McGovern in 2011
Pic: INPHO/Donall Farmer
“So the tests aren’t sufficent enough to detect whether somebody really is suffering concussion. What people don’t realise is that brain injury has long-term effects. People lose concentration, they get irritable and there are players who talk about getting very depressed.
“We’ve dealt with players who have gone back to college after their careers are over and they had difficulty studying, learning new information.
“All the way down the line they’re talking about the effects of concussion that you can’t see, because they’re mainly cognitive. They look fine but they’re struggling very much.”
Parental education is another key objective.
“The other thing we’d like to do is educate parents”, says O’Connell. “We have had contact with one mother now whose son is 14 and got a very bad knock in a rugby match.
“The doctor said he was fine but she knew in the car on the way home that he wasn’t. She took him to the hospital and he had a severe brain injury.
“Acquired Brain Injury Ireland are working with him to get him back to school. She’ll talk very clearly about the fact that there was no instruction given and it was only on instinct that things went right, that she took the step of going to the hospital.”
*Barbara O’Connell was speaking at the launch of the ‘Brain Injury and Sport’ conference which takes place at the Aviva Stadium on Friday December 13th*