Fraser Brown admits latest neck injury gave him pause for thought

Neck injuries are an occupational hazard for hookers but Fraser Brown was given pause for thought when he got rolled in a ruck during Scotland’s Autumn Nations Cup clash against Ireland in Dublin last December.

Fraser Brown injured his neck in Scotland's Autumn Nations Cup match against Ireland in Dublin in December.
Fraser Brown injured his neck in Scotland's Autumn Nations Cup match against Ireland in Dublin in December.

Almost a decade to the day since he suffered a serious neck trauma, the Glasgow Warriors man damaged discs in a clash he describes as “half rugby collision, half freak incident”.

At 31, Brown is honest enough to admit it made him take stock of his situation as he weighed up the long-term consequences of his latest injury.

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Happily, after a period of rest, recuperation and physiotherapy, the forward will make his comeback this afternoon when Glasgow Warriors take on the Dragons in Wales.

Brown will make his comeback for Glasgow Warriors against Dragons in Wales.

All being well, Brown may even come into consideration for Scotland’s final Guinness Six Nations match against France in Paris on Friday. But for now his focus is solely on coming through today’s Pro14 game at the Principality Stadium.

“I’ve got a historical neck injury that’s ten years old,” explained Brown. “As a front rower in modern day rugby, there are issues that crop up around stiff necks and disc bulges all the time.

“That’s part and parcel of the job. If you scan any front rower, any forward, for them not to have any degenerative issues around discs in their back or neck, I’d be very surprised.

“But obviously, when you get a big injury in and around something where you’ve had a previous injury, there’s always a slight pause because you need to fully weigh up the consequences of what’s going on and the options ahead of you.

“From my point of view, surgery was a no-go because I’d had that previous operation. It was pretty easy for me – a very conservative approach to physio, rehab and return to play. And if everything went well, we could accelerate that.

“Fortunately for me, everything has gone well, I hit all my physio and strength markers quite a while ago now, so it was just about getting enough rugby and running in my legs so I’d be feeling fit enough to go.

“Against Ireland, I was in a ruck and got neck-rolled/suplexed. I landed on the point of my back and got a disc injury through that.

“It was probably half rugby collision, half freak rugby incident. I’m accustomed to them by now – it’s not really anyone’s fault, it’s just part of the game and you just deal with it as best you can.”

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Brown is acutely aware there is a life to be lived beyond rugby and he wants to play a full and active part in the upbringing of his young family. He has already begun planning for the future but is grateful that on this occasion the injury was not so serious that he needed to activate those plans immediately.

“Rugby is a very physical sport and front row is a very physical position,” he said. “I’ve had plans in place for a while for a career post-rugby. But when it comes to your quality of life after rugby that’s a huge part of any decision you make – especially when you get injured and you come back.

“I want to be able to run around with my kids when I retire. I want to be able to go and do whatever else I want to do. So it forms a massive part of my decision-making. Luckily for me I didn’t have to think too hard about this.

“You just tick one box at a time and it wasn’t something I had to think about with this injury until a little further down the line when it had settled down. I went to see what I could do and how I could progress and from mid-January everything kept progressing really well.

“If I ever got to the stage of my career where I maybe thought that I could have some lasting damage later on then that would be a decision I would have to make then. But it’s not something I need to think about just now.”

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