The outrageous decision to send Florian Fritz back into action for Toulouse against Racing Metro two weekends ago, after a sickening head injury which left the centre seeing stars and sporting stitches and staples, has garnered most attention.
Yet a week later Leinster were withdrawing Brian O’Driscoll, Fergus McFadden and Sean Cronin from the PRO12 semi-final battle against Ulster after the trio shipped serious blows. All have now been cleared for the May 31 final against Glasgow Warriors, but the general ground on deciding what is and isn’t a concussion remains muddied with even neurological experts holding divergent views.
The IRB’s five-minute assessment tests have themselves been debated far and wide though the world’s governing body will be extending the Pitchside Suspected Concussion Assessment (PSCA) to 10 minutes this summer.
As for McFadden, he is confident his blow last weekend doesn’t rank in the concussion category. None of the post-hit symptoms, which doctors are told to check for, have been noted after a couple of easy days with Schmidt’s Ireland camp.
McFadden also went along with the theory Leinster’s alacrity in withdrawing all three players for precautionary reasons was a positive statement and it certainly contrasted with that sent out by Toulouse and their treatment of Fritz.
“I can’t speak for other clubs but, in fairness to the medical staff with Leinster and with Ireland, they don’t take any chances with the players and in that area,” said McFadden who was launching Specsavers’ Unbreakable Friendship’ initiative. “It’s one thing playing on with a broken hand or playing on with a tear in your hamstring. Those things will heal, but you’re brain — you damage it and it can affect you for the rest of your life.”
McFadden has been diagnosed with concussion twice before in his career and saw first-hand how the issue forced the retirement of former team-mate John Fogarty who, at one point, could not sit in a room with bright lights.
Still only 27, McFadden has put some seasons of drift behind him to forward his position with club and country. Once understudy to O’Driscoll at centre for Leinster, he has nailed his colours to the mast as a winger, albeit one who can still fill in at 12 and 13. The season about to end has seen him frequent the touchline more often than not, rather than flit between there and the centre, after a conversation with Joe Schmidt helped him establish his focus.
“When Joe took the Irish job I had a chat with him about where he saw me fitting in at Test level because it is one thing starting in big games for your province but I am ambitious and I want to start for Ireland.
“I wanted to know where I stood in terms of where Joe saw me fitting in to his picture.”
More Test time beckons in Argentina next month, but not before a fit McFadden and Leinster face the Warriors at the RDS.