On Saturday night, All Black midfielder Ryan Crotty left the field after suffering his seventh concussion in 15 months. Head knock. Collision. Clash. These words are often used to describe what is, in reality, a traumatic brain injury. Concussions are common in rugby. A player gets hit in the head, they go down, and they stay down. Without visible symptoms like bleeding and bruising, the severity of a concussion can remain hidden and that works for everyone, except, of course, the player whose brain just hit the inside of their skull. A concussion is kind of a functional thing, So the brain essentially gets shook around inside the, inside the head, and stops working properly. Once you have one concussion and then you sort of recover from that, is there a compounding effect if you have another one and another one? Well that is a very good question, and it’s one that we don’t definitively have an answer for. For some patients, they would appear to be able to sustain multiple concussions and don’t seem to have an ongoing problem, but it’s very hard to know because we don’t typically follow these patients up for 50 or 60 years. Stuart Ta’avao of Eden Rugby club is one of those patients. He’s still feeling the effects of a concussion from five weeks ago. I don’t remember what happened really, but I had a blow to the back of the head. I knew I’d been hit but I didn’t realise how bad it was until the next day. I’ve never really had it effect me longer than, I guess, three or four days. A week max, So it’s been kinda a bit scary. And do you think, is this gonna change how you come up to the next season of rugby? Whether you’re gonna play or not? Yeah for me, at my age especially, I think it’s a lot easier to say I probably won’t go back um, to play. I think if that was my bread and butter and that was feeding my family that might be a different decision. Concussion is a serious injury. But even serious injuries can be brushed aside when matches, seasons, and even careers are on the line. Because it’s something you’re so driven to be able to do, to stay out and play, that’s what you want to do. And unfortunately for the medics, they don’t understand how severe your injury might be. If I knew something was seriously wrong you know, there’s no way I’d stay out there, for other people, they wanna be in the heat of the battle, they wanna stay out there, they know there’s, you know if they don’t keep possibly don’t keep playing someone else is gonna take their position the following week because you have to have a three or four week stand down and that’s where it becomes very difficult for um, for medics to get a gauge on where everyone’s at. Players like Buck Shelford have been applauded for playing through injuries. Is that sort of attitude changing now? Back then, those stories of Buck playing on without a certain, uh, part of his anatomy, I mean that’s for guys growing up you’re like ‘wow.’ This guy was a tough bastard, you know, so Nowadays it’s a little bit different, but I think certainly to play on and the tough man mentality has certainly phased out of the game, um, a heck of a lot. The New Zealand Rugby Union is an employer. According to the Health and Safety at Work Act, it’s an employer’s primary duty of care to minimise risk to their employees’ health and safety. But who’s to say when a player’s career should end? Yes, I understand it’s a difficult thing to do, because there’s so much external pressure, with getting back on the field, sponsorships, the game, also the pressure of the player saying he’s alright, um, but there has to be something that the, the high honchos have to come up with and put their brains together and come up with an idea that works for everyone, and keeps players safe. The managing of injuries has improved dramatically in recent years. But there are still too many players taking the field soon after multiple concussions. When the All Blacks and Black Ferns take on the Wallabies and Wallaroos, someone is bound to get hurt. I just hope it’s not from a traumatic brain injury. Sorry, ‘head knock’. Madeleine Chapman, The Spinoff TV.