RATHBONE: Review of concussion protocols no brainer

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A medical doctor attends to Lachlan Turner. (AAP Image/Sergio Dionisio)

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Make no mistake about it – the Lions series was great! Rugby really was the winner, unless rugby is the nickname for George Smiths brain.

Four days after my ‘head injury’ column, George delighted us all with one of the great noggin’ smashing moments in living memory!

Look, I love a good brain injury as much as the next guy. The mouth agape in slack jawed confusion, the groggy snake leg shuffle, eyeballs rolled back and the general “where am I – ahem – who am I?” expressions on the faces of the latest hapless victim really is priceless.

I get it, people, brain injuries are the new black.

How else could one explain return-to-play timeframes reduced from three weeks to five minutes! The public need entertaining and there’s only so much the Tabbot and Kruddy can do to bring raucous laughter into our homes.

All I’m suggesting is that to keep ‘the game they play in heaven’ off life-support we need to ensure our players avoid it too.

Think about it: if we don’t do something soon there will be nothing left but soccer mums and the ultimate brain damage sport – the NRL.

Rugby might have the Foxkopter, but the NRL’s robot – Tom Waterhouse – is far more impressive. Five minutes of Tom will have you booking a lobotomy, and his advertised service provides generous odds on the likely success or failure of the operation. But I digress.

We know brain injury is amusing, but we don’t yet have a great understanding of it. At least not to the extent that there is consensus regarding return-to-play protocols. This fact alone should mean that guidelines err on the side of caution and are weighted in favour of player welfare. It would be useful to have an independent panel of experts design evidence-based return-to-play protocols.

With all this talk of brain damage it would be remiss of me not to mention James O’Connor. Plenty of people seem delighted by JOC’s fall from grace, but the reality is that we’re all the poorer for his form – both on and off the pitch.

Rugby in Australia needs players like JOC thriving. Instead he seems intent on playing russian roulette with his career. During televised interviews JOC does not come across as stupid as his actions suggest. And where there’s smarts there is hope.

To see if intelligent life exists on planet JOC, I turned to the one thing intent on extinguishing it – social media.

JOC has 165,000 followers on Twitter, so I thought I’d hang out there and see what he is all about. After about 20 minutes I left convinced that JOC might also be a German robot intent on harming my brain.

My dad once told me that my life would be much easier if I just stopped doing stupid things. My dad likes taking his pants off for photographs but his advice is still sound.

While I’m not quite old enough to be James’ dad I guess, I could be an older, more handsome big brother. With this in mind I’d like to offer him some words of wisdom. It would be unfair to overload James with too much information so I’m going to identify a force multiplier – one factor that has a transformative advantageous effect.

Drum roll please…

Stop. Making. Moronic. Hand. Signs. In. Photographs. It makes you look very dumb indeed.

When a privileged white kid makes gang signs we can be sure of one thing – irony is either deeply valued or completely lost on that person. While I concede JOC’s hand sign fetish may be an attempt at self deprecating satire, I reserve my doubts.

I would just shelve the entire experiment. I understand this may be a little difficult to begin with, so if you feel your hands need some sort of weening off period, I would suggest the good old vanilla thumbs up. Trust me – your brand will thank you for it.

If abandoning gang signs is the bad news the good news is very good indeed. The good news is that you, James, have all the potential to become one of the best rugby players of your generation. What that makes you is incredibly fortunate.

A little humility and perspective means that instead of material possessions, image, fame or power you might come to realise that the most important thing is the positive difference you make in the lives of others.

What you decide to do with this opportunity is entirely up to you.

Follow @ClydeRathbone on Twitter

Former Wallaby Clyde Rathbone has returned to Super Rugby with the ACT Brumbies, following an injury-forced retirement from all forms in 2009. He writes columns for The Roar and has made his return to top level rugby with the Brumbies. Follow Clyde at his blog or via his Twitter page.
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