Pat Lambie's situation puts concussion under spotlight again
And who knows? He might never play again. Considering Lambie has only played a handful of games since a serious concussion sustained last June in the first Test against Ireland at Newlands‚ this is a worrying development.
Lambie was felled by Ireland flank CJ Stander and didn’t play for four months. Earlier this year Lambie suffered another head injury when he collided with his own player in a Super Rugby match.
He hasn’t been on a field since. While it’s a desperately unfortunate situation for Lambie‚ it’s again brought the serious issue of concussion under the spotlight.
World Rugby’s Head Injury Assessment (HIA) protocols during matches‚ which were first implemented in 2012‚ are a massive step in the right direction and led to a higher number of concussion diagnoses.
But concussions are also increasing. A recent study of the 2015-16 Premiership season by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) showed that concussions accounted for 20% of all injuries to the ball carrier and a whopping 47% of all injuries to the tackler (defender).
And those are just the incidents that have been diagnosed. Despite stringent controls‚ sometimes concussions are not spotted.
"It's the most difficult sports injury to consistently recognise and diagnose‚" England Rugby's chief medical officer Simon Kemp told CNN earlier this year.
"This is the No. 1 player welfare issue in collision and contact sports at the moment ...
"The science around head injury and particularly around concussion in sport is relatively immature and evolving very rapidly.
"The average assessment of a player in the 2015 World Cup was 64 seconds and done on-pitch where the player couldn't engage in the assessment.
"We now have a 10-minute‚ off-pitch assessment informed by video review with a structured assessment.
"If a player has any abnormal results‚ they don't return. But even if they have all normal results‚ if in the opinion of the team doctor that they may be concussed‚ they still don't return ... It's not pass or fail. The HIA supports the doctor's decision-making."
Lambie is clearly going through a thorough process with the support of the Sharks.
"There appears to be no pressure on him to return to play.
"The main priority is to return to full health. And rightly so."
In recent months‚ concussion has ended the careers of several players in their prime. One-Test All Black lock James Broadhurst called time on his career in April after failing to recover from concussion symptoms from an injury sustained in 2015.
Last October former Bok lock Alistair Hargreaves retired from the sport due to concussion related issues at the age of 30.
That came only a week after Ireland prop Nathan White retired after failing to fully recover from a concussion sustained 15 months earlier.
They are just a few of a long list of players who have retired in their prime because of concussion – from former England centre Shontayne Hape in 2012‚ who revealed how players were routinely pressed back into action despite still presenting concussion symptoms – to former All Black prop Ben Afeaki.
Lambie’s only priority now‚ is to make a full recovery.