The sickening sight of Berrick Barnes totally ga-ga in the dressing room after the Waratahs game on Saturday was disturbing.
Research from America’s NFL has found that players that suffer repeated head knocks have a likelihood of early onset dementia. The NFL is now fielding lawsuits from ex-players suing the NFL for not protecting them against this. The ARU should take note.
In Australian rugby, because there are not enough players, small guys are thrown into positions they don’t have the build for. Berrick has a body frame that would have been better suited to playing half-back (where he played in the NRL).
The inside backs at international level have to face behemoths like Sonny Bill and Nonu running at them like runaway trucks. A little guy like Barnes playing in the centres is at particular risk of head injuries because the only chance he has of bringing those attackers down is to stay low and tackle them front-on around the legs. Sometimes the head gets in the wrong position…..
Another brave little player who would have been safer playing half-back, Matt Giteau, has also suffered repeated concussions trying to bring big men down.
It is now being suggested that James O’Connor will be moved to inside centre for the Wallabies, at 20 years of age, raising similar concerns for his welfare.
Berrick Barnes has been an incredibly brave defender, but for the sake of his health, he should retire from rugby now.
With his good looks, perhaps a career as a TV commentator awaits him. He has the world at his feet.
Berrick, hang up your boots.