Ireland’s leading brain injury specialists have expressed serious concern at reports Sean Cavanagh played for Tyrone while concussed last weekend.
Manager Mickey Harte stated after his side’s Allianz league defeat to Monaghan talisman Cavanagh suffered ‘a slight, mild concussion’ early in the game but played on.
Harte explained ‘after some deliberation with the medical people’ Cavanagh decided he wanted to continue and completed the game. The decision went against the GAA’s own ‘Concussion Management Guidelines’ which state a concussed player ‘should not return to play on the same day’.
A spokesman for Acquired Brain Injury Ireland revealed, if he was concussed, as Harte stated, Cavanagh put himself in danger of a potentially fatal second impact syndrome.
“I’ve seen the reports he suffered a mild concussion and one claimed it was a ‘brave’ call he made to play on — the reality is that it’s anything but brave, it’s the wrong decision,” said ABI Ireland spokesperson Karen O’Boyle.
“If Sean Cavanagh was concussed and he played on and then took another hit, even if it was only a strong shoulder that caused the head to shake, he could have suffered a second concussion and second impact syndrome which can be fatal if the player is not removed from play. If you’re taking risks, there’s nothing brave about it at all. It’s sending out totally the wrong message calling that brave.”
ABI Ireland was famously critical of the decision to leave Rory O’Carroll on the field for the closing stages of the 2013 All-Ireland football final.
The Dublin full-back was described as being ‘woozy’ for the final 15 minutes of that game. Ironically, O’Carroll was already an ambassador for ABI Ireland along with Dublin colleague Michael Darragh Macauley.
Just last month, Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea admitted he has suffered at least half a dozen concussions in his career. He said they now occur easier for him though he doesn’t plan to alter his game. O’Boyle said there is still a problem generally in Gaelic games that playing while concussed is seen as a manly or impressive thing.
“This warrior ethos is something we’re trying really hard to get rid of,” she continued. “It’s sending out the message that if you get a knock to the head and play on you’re tough.
“In reality, you’re probably making worse choices on a purely playing level but more importantly you’re putting your health at risk. Why is it okay to say ‘I have a twisted knee, I need to come off’ and not to say the same after a hit to the head?
“We’ve done a lot of work on this but there’s still some distance to go. This is probably just an example of the work we still have to do.”