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Wales back row details scary symptoms that ended his career

By Ian Cameron
Wales James Davies goes down injured during the Under Armour Summer Series match between Wales and England at Principality Stadium on August 17, 2019 (Photo by Ian Cook - CameraSport via Getty Images)

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Former Wales back row James Davies has detailed the grueling return to play process he went through which led to the ‘gut-wrenching’ decision to call time on his career.

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Davies announced his retirement at the start of month – at the age of 31 – due to persistent concussion symptoms.

The openside, popularly known as ‘Cubby’, hasn’t played since winning his eleventh Wales Test cap against Georgia at Parc y Scarlets in October 2020.

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Now in an interview on the region’s Youtube channel, Davies has spoken about his ultimately fruitless attempt to return to the playing field.

“Obviously it’s gut-wrenching, but I think the right decision has been made,” said Davies.

“The first six months were pretty much just a migraine the whole time,” he began. “I’d come in because the specialists would say it was important to keep busy, keep training. But initially I was doing just 10 minute spins on a bike and I’d have to get off because I was feeling dizzy, unwell, my head would be throbbing.

“I’d be driving home just worried if I’m going to get home because my head was over the shop. I was getting neck pain, my visuals were off, the symptoms you can have through concussion. I probably had the lot.

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“I was just trying to build tolerance for going on a bike, once you did that build tolerance for running, then once you did that I was trying to build tolerance just for passing and catching. It wasn’t as if any of it was easy, I had to retrain myself to do it.

“In the end I got to a place where I was training in a capacity which was looking like I was getting excited, still making breaks, felt good. My skill set was still there, but then it went on to contact which just wasn’t working. Walkthroughs, little glancing blows to the head; I’d get symptoms straight away and I just felt really vulnerable.

“In the end I just knew this isn’t going to work. Those first six months they were just constant. My head just felt like it was going to explode sometimes.

“I got to a good place around November, but took a little glancing blow in training. I went through the same symptoms again, the same cycle, but in a condensed period. It was scary really, showed my vulnerability again.

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“But I’m so glad I did everything I could, went through it. I could have quit ages ago, but went to N-th degree to make sure the decision is the right decision.

“That will help me moving forward, I will be able to look back at the decision and say ‘Yes, you gave it everything, unfortunately you just couldn’t do it’. But at least I know.”

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Davies made his Scarlets debutin 2013 and went on to make 101 appearances in the red jersey, establishing himself as one of the leading opensides in the then PRO12 and PRO14.

The 31-year-old received an emotional send-off from his fellow Scarlets players and has been inundated with messages of support from well-wishers.

“It’s been humbling to be honest. Lots of players I played with got in touch and gave their commiserations. They brought up stories of the past which were good to remember. Present players obviously said their goodbyes.

“Also people who’ve been through similar have reached out. They too had to retire early, specifically with concussion, and have been really helpful. I hope they can help me moving forward.”

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