Former Springbok flyhalf Pat Lambies has spoken about dealing with concussion and how he deliberately avoided an HIA assessment in order to avoid being taken off the field and potentially miss a European final in an interview with The Times.
The 28-year-old was only a quarter of the way into Racing 92’s Champions Cup semifinal against Munster when he suffered a head knock.
“It was from a scrum, I made a tackle; it was a big collision. I stayed at the bottom of the ruck, feeling dizzy, everything was spinning, tried to get up, sort of wobbled a bit, went back down for the rest of the passage of play, had some ice on my head, sprayed myself with some water, shook it off, said I was fine and carried on,” he told The Times.
“In the back of my mind, I was concerned that if I put my hand up and said, ‘I need an HIA [head injury assessment],’ I wouldn’t be allowed back on the field and, worse, if we made it to the final, I wouldn’t be allowed to play in that.”
It was Lambie’s fifth concussion, one that ultimately ended his career. At the time he was “in combat mode; the height of competition, where the next game is the most important game that I don’t want to miss out on and I can’t make a sensible or a right decision”.
Had he taken another knock during the game things could have “ended very badly”. In the final against Leinster, Lambie suffered a knee injury
In the weeks following the season, he tried to ignore the ongoing effects that lingered.
“I tried to ignore it,” he said.
“I tried to pretend that I was fine, OK. I was trying to lie to myself. It was crazy.
“I didn’t want to let the club down, I’d just arrived, I was part of a special team, I’d already spent seven weeks on the sideline because of a head injury. Now it was crunch time. I don’t want to be the one putting my hand up saying, ‘Bit of a headache here, I’m not feeling myself.’
“I had promised myself with previous head injuries that I would never do that, that I would never run on to the field without feeling 100 per cent. And regrettably I did.”
Lambie made the decision to retire from the game in January, ending a 56-test career for the Springboks, however, is still dealing with the side effects of his head injuries, calling it a ‘hangover without the fun from the night before’ with pounding headaches.
“I still wake up with a throbbing head. It’s like waking up with a hangover but you haven’t had any fun the night before.
“Or it’s like someone’s whacked you on the head with a baseball bat. It’s a pounding headache. Then I get this stinging sensation in my eyes, which comes and goes throughout the day and it is worse with some things like a weights session in the gym.”
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