On any given Sunday. I'm sure your world has no force so ruthless, so disciplined. Oh, we call 'em linebackers, or serial killers.
A field outside Arena football league case study, an unremarkable town in the midlands of Ireland, a rugby heartland, where men are men and pride in a jersey comes before all else.
Thirty men on a field chasing an oval ball with maybe the same number again on the side-lines watching. Supporters of a certain size and gender dare not get too close to the team manager for fear that if a substitute is needed they could be drafted in.
There is no stand, no television cameras, no TV match official just the players, the officials and the supporters, maybe 60 sets of eyes follow the ball as it slips from muddy hand to hand weaving through the players.
The jerseys are faded, the lines on the field are smudged but the passion is evident with every run, every tackle, and every kick. This is a religion in itself and this scene is repeated across the country every weekend throughout the season.
Suddenly a shoulder collides with a head, a man drops to the ground, he touches his hand to his head, and the team doctor who incidentally doubles up as the kit man runs on, glancing over his shoulder to see who is on the side-line potentially ready to enter the field of play if needed.
He asks the right questions but is reassured by the player that he is fine. The doctor scurries back to relative warmth of the side-line the game continues on. This is amateur rugby.
This is the heartbeat of the game. This is the reality. A different picture unfolds before our eyes. Eighty-three-thousand-seven-hundred-and-four sets of eyes will watch every movement, will feel every hit from their seats, will discuss every blow, will follow every movement as fifteen Lions take to the field with the intention of mauling, both literally and figuratively, the Australian Wallabies.
Millions of eyes across the world will follow the ball on their TV screens, watching not only the live action but the replays.
Four minutes in and pulses are already racing, Wallabies legend George Smith who incidentally returned from retirement for the game has the ball in hand and collides with pounds of Welshman in the form of Richard Hibbard. The medics race on, the spectators hold their collective breath, on the side-line Michael Hooper throws off his training top and races onto the field as the replacement.
The supporters are still discussing how sad an end to his career it is for Smith and hoping his injuries are minor when he emerges from the tunnel before running back onto the field. One could be forgiven for questioning whether the team doctor had himself suffered a blow to the head in allowing Smith back on.
This is professional rugby. This is the elite. The is with the eyes of the rugby supporting world watching. In the wake of the game Smith himself acknowledged the severity of his injury, It obviously affected me. You saw me snake dancing off the field. I passed the [concussion] tests that were required within those five minutes and I got out there.
World Rugby, in its former guise the IRB, stood up and took notice. The rules changed, safeguarding player welfare became the headline issue, excuse the pun. Rugby would not fall into the pitfalls of NFL in seeking to distance themselves from concussion or shirk their responsibility.
In the wake, Rugby would protect its players from themselves. In a sport where physicality is inevitable, and indeed a requirement of the playing of the game, to protect players you have to take an almost parental approach and make the decisions for the players as to what is in their best interest.
Rugby would change, rugby would adapt and rugby would protect their biggest asset, their players. North, who has suffered a number of concussions throughout his career, departs the field of play only to return within minutes having undergone the HIA Head Injury Assessment protocols.
The situation posed a new question, if the procedures were followed and North was still deemed fit to return to the field of play then perhaps the question is are the protocols fit for purpose? The time may be approaching where a clear injury sustained to the head should have the effect of removing a player from the field for the remainder of the game with the HIA conducted to determine what further period of exclusion a player should have prior to their return to play.
Rugby related litigation to date has been largely focused on injuries sustained in scrums whereby players have suffered serious injuries as a result of collapsed scrums including players rendered tetraplegic however matters seem to be, pardon the pun, coming to a head now particularly with three sets of proceedings which look to shake rugby to its very core.
After the first blow the medics deemed Willis fit to continue but the second blow would see him crossing the side-line for the last time as a player. The second case is being taken by Jamie Cudmore against his former club Clermont Auvergne.
Cudmore may face an uphill battle in showing the injury or damage caused if his case were to go before the courts, but many commentators would expect this matter to be settled prior to that possibility. I think World Rugby can try and change something around the rules but, for example, tackles to the chest often end up hitting the ball and going up.
It takes away that pressure that if a good player is injured or concussed, that they stay on because there is no-one as good or better to replace them.
The third case which may prove to be the catalyst for the biggest change to head injury protocols or indeed for underage sports in general is the tragic death of Benjamin Robinson.I’ve never been the biggest NFL fan, despite living in a distinctly football town here in Washington DC.
But in the past few years or so, slowly my patience for watching an entire NFL football .
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