By Terry O’Neill.

Gradual improvements in practice continue on concussion issues with the horizon a far distant mirage. It sounds simple: “a temporary unconsciousness or confusion caused by a blow on the head” (Concise Oxford English Dictionary), and from the Latin concutere: to dash together or shake.

The issue’s always with me. Fifteen years ago our younger daughter was squashed and bashed in a vehicle collision and the devastating effects of her serious head injury will be with her, and the family, for the rest of her life. There’s no outward sign of disability, and her good looks mask her debilitating injuries within. She married and gave birth to two sons and fatigue dictates absolute rest daily after lunch with demanding tasks sometimes rescheduled next morning, and also she has to accept outside help with children and housekeeping – for a “normal” life that will never be normal again. Nevertheless, magnificent therapies, and all that love can do, means her confidence still improves and she “has a life”.

Concussion in sport may have additional dimensions.

In an earlier “As I See It” column I quoted Ireland’s Dr Barry O’Driscoll whose strong opinions lead to his resignation as a leading IRB medical advisor because the IRB introduced the controversial brief concussion bin, and this five minutes Pitch Side Concussion Assessment (PSCA) was later extended

Rugby players’ collisions vary in impact and severity but former All Black James Broadhurst has suffered a nagging headache for six weeks, and consequently, is ruled out of the remainder of the 2015 ITM competition. Broadhurst, a one test All Black, copped a couple of head knocks against Wellington in August and played until halftime. Broadhurst’s plea to players: “Don’t try to tough it out. I took a knock and thought I’d be all right. Two minutes later I copped another one that cost me my ITM season.” Now he wonders if his rugby career is in limbo.

While research continues on concussion after effects, it’s essential to also focus on causes of head knocks. Tackling in rugby needs to be redefined. The growing number of former rugby league players employed as defence coaches introduced the chest high tackle to control or slow ball distribution. This technique increases head to head clashes. Should rugby encourage the redevelopment of “around the legs tackling” with the head safely behind the opponents knees? Should we not examine the style of rugby whereby there are too many mismatches with bigger and heavier forwards consistently used as first receivers against lighter tacklers? Should supervision be more intense at the breakdown where players individually throw themselves head first into the fray?

Tentative moves are afoot whereby rugby tackling above the shoulder can earn a penalty. But wheels of change turn too slow.

Barry O’Driscoll insists the power of television, and the huge commercial influence, highlights the glory of the club, or the team, and not player welfare. Will only a fatality accelerate those wheels of change?

Parents won’t encourage their children to participate in any sport where the well-being of each player is not the paramount concern.


AS I SEE IT (28 Aug)


By Terry O’Neill

Sports participants and spectators, when their team fails, at some stage may harbour blame for the referee or umpire involved.

I tend to support the referee/umpire who is probably not at fault.

So who are the culprits? Any blame should be shouldered by those who, like the International Rugby Board (IRB) or International Cricket Council (ICC), with due expertise attempt to right what appears to be a wrong or introduce new legislation to, in the first instance, endeavour to make the sport more attractive to supporters.

So my question is to the IRB. When will it preside over a strenuous enquiry into the obnoxious maul in today’s rugby? The maul grievously offends that basic rugby rule that no player may be hindered from affecting a tackle on the player in possession. A given is that player is at that time within the laws, not offside for instance.

I single out the maul simply because many teams, jealous of the All Blacks’ skills, reason that the maul which protects the ball carrier, is one route to inhibit the All Blacks’ power. Realistically, the maul simply allows seven forwards, usually from a lineout, to assemble in an arrowhead formation to protect the ball carrier securely attached to the back of the group and who thus becomes untouchable by the defenders. This practice is a blight on the game and does little to stir positive emotions in supporters.

Don’t hold your breath. Change is a tardy process within the IRB (to some, the SOF!)

In cricket there is the Duckworth-Lewis system, an attempt to calculate runs-per-over required when a fifty over match is interrupted by rain. This mathematical formula devised by English statisticians Frank Dunlop and Tony Lewis, attempts to set a statistically fair target for the team batting its second teams innings, and is based on the score achieved by the first team taking into account wickets lost and overs played.

The equation: Team One’s score is multiplied by the number found by dividing Teams Two’s resources by Team One’s resources.

Simple? A phone app for this ICC system maybe on the way?

And in tennis, why does a player gets a second serve if he fluffs the first?

How many know that the football goalkeeper must keep his sleeves down throughout the game so the referee can see who punches the ball away?

In water polo are you aware that your crotch is sacrosanct. No grabbing, kicking or hitting, and it’s illegal to splash water in an opponent’s face?

Women’s wrestling participants may not wear underwire bras, while in baseball, if the ball lodges in the umpire’s mask, all runners advance one base.

And many think the rugby maul is a problem.

But back to the present or probably the future. Plans are apparently under way to redevelop the Whitestone stadium grandstand.It has been suggested that the back ten rows of seats be done away with

to allow the building of Rugby Union offices plus the creation of a lounge area which will be divided with movable doors so that it can be divided into smaller areas if and when required.In addition it is presumed that cricket administration will be catered for as well. Sounds good to me.   


First Published in The North OtagoTimes