A SIGN that rugby is beginning to take concussion more seriously emerged this week as Glasgow lock Tom Ryder spoke of his eagerness to get back into the Warriors side for the return to the RaboDirect PRO12.
After former Glasgow and Scotland winger Rory Lamont highlighted in The Scotsman in the summer a worrying concern across the game, that many players, coaches and medics in different countries were guilty of taking concussion too lightly, and returning to play too early, the spotlight has turned on this particular injury.
Ryder will be back in the Warriors side for Friday night’s match with Treviso as the team seek to end a losing streak at Scotstoun that reached three with last week’s Heineken Cup defeat by Cardiff.
After topping off a fine season in 2012-13 with his first two Scotland caps on the summer tour, Ryder found the competition stiffening last season at Glasgow. He still started 15 games and came off the bench in five others, but he was determined this season to push on after Tim Swinson returned from South Africa a new Scotland Test cap and Jonny Gray stepped into the second row battle.
Then he played for Stirling County in the first game of the club season and took a heavy knock, suffering concussion. Many pro players return after two weeks, but he was out for five weeks as his brain struggled to fully recover from the knock and pass stringent rugby tests.
“Every week I was going for it [the test] and every week failing, and to be honest I didn’t feel great for the first three weeks,” he said. “It took a while to get right, but it’s important to be safe. There’s no point in trying to get back earlier than is right, is there?
“There has been a lot of publicity about concussion recently and obviously it’s just part of the game unfortunately. It’s not the first one I’ve had, though it’s probably the worst one, so as long as the protocols are in place to get you back fit, and the medical staff here are brilliant, you have to accept it as being part of being a rugby player.”
This suggests a changing mindset. One cannot remember the last player who sat out for five weeks purely due to concussion, or who we were told about, never mind an internationalist eager to win back his place and push for autumn Test inclusion.
However, no-one was taking chances with Ryder and whether Lamont’s interview or the recent publicity around the inquest into the death of Ben Robinson in Ireland due to second impact syndrome – when his initial concussion was not taken seriously – played any part in that we will never know.
But Ryder is thankful that he can press his claims for Glasgow and Scotland with a brain that appears to be fully recovered from the early-season hit, even if it did mean a different start to the season than the one he hoped for. “It hasn’t worked out the way I’d want, but that’s rugby and you have to just get on with it,” he added. “I always say you’re only three games away from getting dropped completely or three games from playing for Scotland. So you just have to work through the low points. They make you stronger for the future.
“People get injured and other people take opportunities and Jonny Gray has taken his with both hands and had a fantastic year, and so has Tim Swinson. Second row is a position where there is lots of competition so it’s tough, but competition is good. It makes sure you don’t rest on your laurels and that in every game you play you have to play well, and that pushes everyone on which can only be beneficial for the team.
“But this is a big game now,” he continued, turning to Friday night. “We are disappointed with our results, but you’re always looking to the next game. It may not always look like it on the pitch, but people are working hard behind the scenes to get things right and get back on track.
“Treviso are a good team, full of experience and Italian internationals, and we have equal respect for everyone we play, but we’ve obviously come off the back of two losses and before the Heineken Cup our form hadn’t been that great either, so this is a huge game for us.
“The Heineken Cup is probably out of the window now but we’re sitting third in the league so are still in a good position. Our league form is better than it was last year and this time last year was a real turning point for us where we went over the Christmas and Six Nations period picking up maximum points, so this is the time now where we need to be winning to pick up the points and secure a home semi-final. You can’t wait till the end of the season to do that.
“Momentum is a big thing in sport, but momentum shifts can happen quickly, and so this is a massive game and a massive point in the season for us.”
Ryder now has a chance to play a part in this key period for the Warriors, in this his 50th league start, after he and the Glasgow management took the sensible approach to looking after his brain.
Meanwhile, Glasgow hooker Kevin Bryce has joined London Irish on a short-term loan deal.
The 25-year-old will provide injury cover for the Exiles’ David Paice, who is out with a fractured radius. The former Stirling County youth now plays his club rugby for Heriot’s but has yet to break into Glasgow’s first team after penning a one-year deal earlier this year.
Glasgow head coach Gregor Townsend said: “This is a great opportunity for Kevin to go down and get some playing experience in the Aviva Premiership. He’s a model pro and is working extremely hard to develop his game. Despite featuring regularly for Heriot’s, he hasn’t broken into our starting team yet – so the move to London Irish will help him get closer to our matchday squad.
“We wish him all the best down in London and we look forward to welcoming him back to the club in the new year.”
London Irish director of rugby Brian Smith added: “Kevin is a very promising young hooker. He’s providing cover for David Paice who is still a month away from playing. Gregor Townsend has kindly loaned Kevin to us. He’s a tough lad with a good all-round game. I’m sure he’ll do well while he is with us.”
THE SCOTSMAN RUGBY SHOW IN ASSOCIATION WITH GINGER GROUSE