Thursday, 31 March 2011


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. 


  1. Part of the problem that has developed in American football is the unsafe tackling methods. There are way too many head to head hits when defensive cornerbacks are trying to lay a lick on wide receivers coming over the middle. The equipment in American football gives players a false sense of security. As somebody who was a lineman in American football, the other thing that would go a long way to cutting down on head trauma is eliminating the 3- or 4 point stance. When you explode out of that crouch, you cannot help but to have helmet to helmet contact. Multiply that by 30-40 plays per game, practices and years of playing, and it is not a shock to see such elevated levels of Alzheimers among ex American football players. As all of this medical information and stories of suicidal ex players with brain injury symptoms like Dave Duerson is adding weight to the players as they negotiate a new colective bargaining agreement in the NFL. The bottom line is that American Football, and particularly in the NFL is very, very hazerdous to your health.

  2. PS, I did not clarify my earlier point, if you have linemen staring from just a standing, or two point stance, they are less likely to have have head to helmet contact, as arms and shoulders will be the initial points in giving and recieving a blow. (Hand blows to the head are supposed to be illegal)

  3. Nursedude,
    Thanks for the enlightening information! I am not an American, so have a poor understanding of the game, but love watching it. Contrary to its intended function, it seems that the helmet is used as a weapon in American football, often aimed straight at the oponent's head.

  4. When I started playing rugby at the age of 45, that was one of the biggest revelations of the differences between American football and Ruby-a lot of what goes on in American football is simply not permitted in rugby. I have a 2 and a half year old grandson, and I would rather that he play rugby compared to American Football. I think rugby is safer-and a helluva lot more fun. I wish I had started playing rugby when I was younger.

  5. PS-that said, rugby has changed. When you think about what a physical freak Jonah Lomu was in 1995, you fast forward to now and you have guys like Sonny Bill williams and Matthieu Basteraud in France playin INSIDE CENTER as huge as they are, the players are really bigger and stronger. When you look at tape from the 1995 or 1999 Rugby World Cups, it's amazing how much player size has evolved.

  6. Yes indeed Steve. The hits are harder in the professional era, so the injuries are worse (see my earlier blog titled "Is Rugby The World's Most Dangerous Game?". I do agree with you that with regard to head injuries, the NFL is probably more dangerous than rugby, and that one of the reasons for that is that the rules are not strict enough to protect players. They need to stop defenders launching themselves head first at the head of ball carriers. Such helmet-to-helmet 'tackles' are not designed to stop a player, they are designed to maim them. You would be red-carded in union for a head-high tackle of similar intent.