INJURIES ARE in the news at the moment.
Like everybody else, I was shocked when I heard about the neck damage suffered by Newcastle Knights’ Alex McKinnon in an NRL game against Melbourne Storm the other day.
As I understand it, he has fractured a couple of vertebrae, which is obviously really worrying and I wish him all the best for his recovery.
There’s also been reports in the media about studies in Australia into the effect concussions have on players later in life and that is something I think people in the game have to be aware of.
In the NRL if a player is concussed he has to go off the field, can’t come back on and has to sit out the next weekend’s game as well.
Over here we have to do cog’ tests after a head knock, which are computer-based assessments to make sure all your marbles have returned before you take to the field again.
Those are wise precautions and as far as I am concerned, the game takes issues like the potential consequences of head injuries very seriously.
But I would not want anyone to get too carried away with the dangers of playing rugby league. Everyone picks up bumps and bruises, but fortunately the really serious injuries happen only very occasionally.
There are risks involved in anything you do. The way I look at it, if you walk to the shops there’s a chance you could trip over a crack in the pavement or get hit by a car crossing the road. If you spent all your time worrying about the possible dangers, you would never leave the house.
When you hear about bad injuries, like the one Alex McKinnon has suffered, it does shock you a bit, but the next time you are at training or involved in a game you won’t give it a second thought. I have had my share of bad injuries: a knee reconstruction and a broken leg and the mental side of coming back from that is much tougher than any fears about getting hurt in the first place. The risk of being injured in a game is one of the very last things a player will think of. Once you get into a game situation there’s far more important things to concentrate on.
As players, we get very well looked after and the medical care nowadays – certainly at Leeds – is second to none.
In the past maybe players were reluctant to see the physio, because that goes against the sport’s macho image, but all that has changed.
For me, a massage and physio are a routine part of preparing for any match. And players are sensible enough not to carry on if they aren’t fit.
You have to prove to the medic – and the coach – that you are capable of being out there before you are let anywhere near the training field, never mind the pitch on a match day. It is probably friends and family who worry about the risk of injury more than players do. I have a son now and if, when he’s older, he wants to play rugby, that will be fine by me.
I might try and put a tennis racket or a golf club in his hand first, but I wouldn’t have any fears about him playing our sport if that’s what he really wants to do.