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Brad Barritt shares the mental and physical hurdles awaiting Dupont post-surgery

By Chris Jones
Brad Barritt (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

Brad Barritt, the former England and Saracens centre, overcame two cheekbone fractures during his rugby career and fully understands the mental and physical challenges Antoine Dupont, the injured French captain, must overcome after facial surgery to be fit for the Rugby World Cup quarter-final on October 15.

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Barritt, who has forged a successful business career in South Africa, refused to let the pain of his own fractured face keep him off the pitch and expects a similar response from the French captain, although he admits there is always worry in the back of your mind. He told RugbyPass: “By the time Antonie has the opportunity to get back onto the pitch it will be outrageous to think he wouldn’t have some anxiety or concerns about ‘what if’.

“Antoine will want to play in a World Cup play-off game and it is a very personal decision- everyone has their own perspective. The surgeon I saw was quite mindful of how the game is played and the risks we take every week.

“There will be some discomfort but every player has to play with pain at this level. He will have a week to recover, spend time in a hypobaric chamber followed by light training with the aim of taking part in full training a week before the quarter-final.

“The medical team would have told him what the risks are and if you are prepared to take them then you should feel confident and it is important there are no concussion symptoms. The moment you hide in a rugby game you get yourself into trouble. I played a Champions Cup final with a broken hand and that was more concerning and created more anxiety than the fracture in my face. The fact I wasn’t carrying any concussion symptoms and there was no threat to my eye meant it wasn’t as bigger risk as it was perceived to be.

“It is about getting over the pain threshold and the anxiety about taking contact. I would love to see Antoine in the match and the reality about a World Cup is that a team has to be at its best for three massive play off games to win. Antoine is arguably the best player it the world and a sheer joy to watch and a phenomenal talent. You have to be beat the best to become the best and no matter which team you support you want to see someone like Antoine playing.”

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Barritt twice had titanium plates inserted at different times to repair the same kind of fracture that Dupont suffered when Namibia captain Johan Deysel’s head crashed into the side of his face in the host’s 96-0 win in Marseille. Dupont is now in discussions with the French team’s medical experts to decide if he needs to wear a protective mask when he returns to action.

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The famously tough Barritt had similar discussions when he suffered his two facial injuries but given the damage his nose had suffered over the years, he found that the mask clouded up because he could only breathe through his mouth.

He added: “We had a discussion about me wearing a mask after the first operation and they did create something that was moulded to may face and it was a bit like the Harry Kane one. I found it to be cumbersome and having to breathe out of my mouth because of my nose problems a lot of moisture was getting caught in the mask and clouding up.

“I took the decision that I didn’t want the mask to become a hinderance and having been told there was now a titanium plate in my face and it was stronger than my own bone, if I played it was the same risk as playing the following season.

“There was trepidation with the first training run and it was the captain’s run and you are trying to make sure you keep it out of the way. A lot of the anxiety is in your own head and as long as I crossed the white line and had the first collision in the match then the confidence grew with each hit and you weren’t hiding it.

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“It is in your head as the build up to the game happens but as soon as you kick off the focus is about your role and there is escapism in that along with an element of will and desire. I didn’t want to miss the Leinster game and if someone gave me a sniff of playing I was taking it.

“After the game the area was swollen but no more than the original injury and the operation. A lot of the swelling was internally and I don’t remember getting hits to the head in the game and the biggest low was losing.”

The second of Barritt’s cheekbone injuries came in 2018 and saw him collide with Joe Marchant’s elbow on the Saturday in a Premiership match, undergo surgery to insert the titanium plates on the Tuesday under local anaesthetic sitting in a dentist style chair and then he played against Leinster in the Heineken Cup quarter-final the following Saturday.

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So, why did Barritt opt for a local anaesthetic the second time as the procedure involved a “shoehorn” being inserted into his mouth to create space to make a cut in his gum for the plate to be drilled into place?

He explained: “I wasn’t concussed and by not going under for the operation it meant my recovery time was shortened and I would be able to play against Leinster.

“I had two surgeries in the space of six months and the initial injury happened against Bath and so I had two pieces of metal put in each time so there were four in total. I missed two weeks the first time and then fast forward to the second one and I didn’t realise it was a problem until I blew my nose and my cheek blew up.

“The operation was on the Tuesday and we had Leinster in the play off game and I was desperate to play. I spoke to the surgeon and asked if it was possible and he said that with a fracture in your face while you carry the underlying fracture it may not be affected in one week, two weeks or a couple of months.

“I didn’t have concussion and without any integrity problems around the eye then the best hope to be ready was to go under a local anaesthetic. I didn’t have the effects of a general anaesthetic to overcome and so they numbed my whole face and screwed the plates from inside my mouth while I was conscious.

“There was adrenaline pumping through my body and I do remember the drill which was similar to the dentists one but a lot less discomfort. I was then able to play on the Saturday. Both operations were on the same side.”

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Comments

3 Comments
S
SinclairWhitbourne 290 days ago

There was an All Black, Red Conway, in 1960 who was told his broken finger was a risk to his selection for the touring side and so he had it amputated. I think Barritt is a worthy inheritor of that mantle...

a
alan 290 days ago

One tough SOB!

M
MA 290 days ago

Surely he is the Man of steel.

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