Cork amateur rugby player Dan Cronin shares his cautionary tale about concussion

Should there be more attention given to the issue in the lower levels of the sport?
Cork amateur rugby player Dan Cronin shares his cautionary tale about concussion

Dan Cronin didn't allow himself time to fully recover from a concussion, a growing issue for all rugby players.

Amateur rugby players need to be better protected from concussion risks as players and advocates speak out about the problem.

While there has been increased attention on the risks associated with playing professional rugby, what is the situation like in the amateur game?

Club and professional rugby are obviously are at two very different standards, but the game is played much the same. An amateur player can receive just as bad of a head injury as an international player can.

Dan Cronin, originally from Kinsale, knows all too well the effects concussion can have on a rugby player.

During his playing career, he has experienced several concussions, with the aftermath of these hits still affecting him to this day.

Concussion is described as a traumatic brain injury that affects brain function. Effects can usually be temporary like headaches, starry-eyed and concentration but sometimes these symptoms can linger and become more serious problems.

"I went down to tackle someone, I actually knew the guy, I was in college with him," explained Cronin. "I would say tackling wasn’t my strong point and I never learned the correct technique, and, in this incident, I got my head on the wrong side and his knee hit me straight into the temple.

"I kind of vaguely remember it happening but I was out of it. 

I walked back into the dressing room, and I was just totally confused, no idea what happened. 

"It felt like one of the coaches was talking to me like a child because it was the only way he could communicate with me." 

Cronin began his playing career with Kinsale RFC in sixth class of national school and played all the way up through the age groups.

He then moved on to play on the second team at Kinsale throughout his college degree before moving to Australia for a few years before returning home to play with his old club once again.

His first concussion was a harrowing experience for the number eight, who was now sitting in a dressing room completely confused and dazed after making a routine tackle that he would have done hundreds of times before this incident.

EMPTY

Returning home after the game was when the seriousness of the situation hit him. He said that he doesn’t even remember what he did for the rest of the day after the blow and recalls sitting on his bed staring at the wall.

He described the next few days as “an emptiness”. 

"It’s like you’re missing something, almost like a hole in your head. It’s a very difficult sensation to describe but it's the most horrendous feeling in the world. I remember sitting on my bed in a heap just bawling crying because I had never felt this sensitivity to everything around me before.

I don’t suffer from mental health issues or depression, but I feel like if you were really bad and in a dark place, this is how you would feel.” 

He followed the mandatory standdown period and after 20 days of rest, there was only one game left before the Christmas break.

Cronin explained Kinsale did not have the depth that larger clubs in Cork have. 

And he was one of their key players.

As captain he almost felt obliged to return for this game and with only 20 minutes left to play, he received an accidental belt to the nose which gave him that concussed feeling again.

“It was one of these harmless kinds of belts but as soon as it happened my head was just gone again, and I just walked off the pitch and told the coaches I was done. 

"So, the recovery was defiantly not done after 20 days and if I didn’t play that game, I would have had the whole Christmas break to recover.” 

Cronina said looking back at it now that it was “stupid” to play that game. And no one forced him into either. 

Four years on from his first concussion, he is still feeling the effects of it and says that he is very susceptible to concussions after not recovering correctly from his first hit.

A serious lesson for all players.

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