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Gareth Thomas Exclusive: After the George North incident the laws need to change to protect players

The serious issue of concussions in rugby was brought to the fore when George North was allowed to play on in Wales' Six Nations defeat to England. After two heavy blows to the head North appeared badly concussed but was allowed to continue playing. Wales legend Gareth Thomas gives us his insight and what he believes needs to be done to tackle the problem.

by Gareth Thomas | February 8, 2015

As a former player I can understand how hard it is for a player to come off with something as traditionally trivial as a bit of a knock to the head.

It’s not a knock on the leg or the arm or the chest, or somewhere where something serious is going to physically stop me playing, so your pride takes over and you carry on.

It’s very difficult sometimes then for the doctors to be able to assess you properly if he’s asking you questions you already know the answers to. You desperately want to play on so you’re going to give the answers he wants to hear.

George North

Regarding George North in Friday’s game at the Millennium Stadium we could all see from the replays that he had been concussed, especially in the second instance. Ultimately from the side you need to over-ride the player but it’s scary that he was allowed to carry on.

It’s detrimental to him in a massive way but it was also detrimental to the team because George North didn’t perform anywhere near his capabilities after the knocks. I’m sure the fact that he was concussed for the majority of the game had something to do with it. We don’t know what happened in the changing rooms when George North went off to be assessed, we don’t know what tests were undertaken for him to prove that he wasn’t concussed.

What scares me is Warren Gatland’s decision to say that he felt North was okay to carry on when obviously he wasn’t.

For me the problem can be solved by the authorities that run the game. Maybe they need to bring in a rule that if you leave the field with a suspected concussion then you’re not allowed to return, end of story. When you have a player fighting against the doctor, a doctor fighting against the coach, the coach fighting against the doctor then there are going to be grey areas. The rule needs to be black and white, if you have a suspected concussion then you’re off the field of play.

Warren Gatland

As much as I’d like to say it’s the doctor’s or coach’s responsibility or the player’s responsibility ultimately if everyone’s not clear about the truth and totally clear about how the player is feeling then it’s very difficult to put blame on any one person.

You could hear George North saying he was okay to carry on when he was being assessed on the field after the first knock, maybe that decision should have been taken away from all of them. If someone has taken a knock to head or is even suspected of having concussion then he’s off.

You really want the authorities to put a law in place before something tragic happens. Unfortunately in sport it sometimes takes a tragic incident to force change. Hopefully Friday will be the incident where everybody will react to safeguard not only the players playing at the present but also in their future and for the coming generations of players.

It takes a while to get used to but ultimately rugby players, they may be hard fucking people, but they’re pretty honest people and they stick to the laws of the game. If you bring a law in which is black and white, given time, the players will stick to that and start putting their hands up and say actually this law has been brought in because it’s protecting me, my future and my team so I get it. When I’m beng assessed by the doctor I can tell him the truth about exactly what happened.

Just bring a law in.

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