By Jake Beleski
James Broadhurst’s retirement from rugby due to the ongoing effects of concussion is the latest chapter in a worrying trend that continues to envelop the sport.
The former All Blacks’ and Hurricanes’ lock announced his retirement from all levels of rugby yesterday, citing the fact that he had reached a point where his recovery had plateaued.
Broadhurst took a pair of serious head knocks while playing for Taranaki in a Mitre 10 Cup match in 2015, and 18 months later was still experiencing symptoms affecting his daily life.
His retirement follows on from the news that Chiefs’ midfielder Charlie Ngatai made his return to club rugby last weekend following an 11-month absence, also due to concussion.
Ngatai was arguably the standout player in Super Rugby last year before the seemingly innocuous knock that saw his push for the All Blacks’ No 12 jersey brought to a sudden halt.
He stated that the ongoing headaches and dizziness, combined with the need to provide for his young family, made him question whether returning to rugby was a smart move.
“You don’t want to end up in a wheelchair or disabled for the rest of your life — you want to watch them grow up and grow up with them . . . do the things you love with them,” he said.
Broadhurst and Ngatai are two of the more public rugby-related concussion cases in recent years, but you can bet there are plenty more going unseen in the background.
The main problem is that there are often no visible symptoms when a person has sustained a concussion.
There’s no bandage, plaster or brace to show the extent of the damage, and a player themselves may not be aware of the seriousness of their injury at the time.
Had Broadhurst been taken from the field before his second head knock, he might have prevented any ongoing problems.
But as he says, nobody saw the impact, and he himself was unaware of how much damage had been caused.
Referees are taking a hard stance on high tackles in the hope of eliminating these kinds of injuries, but the combative nature of the sport means there is no quick fix and it will never be eradicated completely.
Even the most innocuous of knocks, as was the case with Ngatai, can lead to devastating repercussions further down the line.
It seems, in most cases, the unseen injuries are the ones with the most dire long-term consequences.