Sharks and Springbok flyhalf Pat Lambie’s career is in the balance, with reports suggesting he will miss the rest of the season because he is still struggling with concussion symptoms.
Lambie is only 26‚ but on Monday, Sharks CEO Gary Teichmann said it was unlikely he would play again in 2017. He may never play again.
Considering Lambie has played only a handful of games since he suffered a serious concussion in June 2016 in the first Test against Ireland at Newlands‚ this is a worrying development. Lambie was felled by Ireland flank CJ Stander and did not play for four months.
Earlier in 2017, Lambie suffered another head injury when he collided with one of his own players in a Super Rugby match. He has not been on a field since.
Lambie’s injury has again brought the serious issue of concussion under the spotlight.
World Rugby’s head injury assessment protocols during matches, which were first implemented in 2012‚ are a huge step in the right direction and have led to a higher number of concussion diagnoses.
But concussions are also increasing. A recent study of the 2015-16 Premiership season by the Rugby Football Union showed concussions accounted for 20% of all injuries to the ball carrier and 47% of all injuries to the tackler.
"It’s the most difficult sports injury to consistently recognise and diagnose‚" England Rugby’s chief medical officer, Simon Kemp, told CNN earlier in 2017.
"This is the No1 player welfare issue in collision-and-contact sports at the moment.
"The science around head injury and particularly around concussion in sport is relatively immature and evolving very rapidly. The average assessment of a player in the 2015 World Cup was 64 seconds and done on-pitch, where the player could not engage in the assessment.
"We now have a 10-minute‚ off-pitch assessment informed by video review with a structured assessment.
"If a player has any abnormal results‚ they don’t return.
"But even if they have all normal results‚ if in the opinion of the team doctor, they may be concussed‚ they still don’t return…. It’s not pass or fail. The [head injury assessment] supports the doctor’s decision-making," Kemp said.
There appears to be no pressure on Lambie to return to play for the Sharks.