Wales Grand Slam hero speaks out on brain injury case in first interview since being named

Wales Grand Slam hero speaks out on brain injury case in first interview since being named

Former Wales international Ian Gough has spoken for the first time since being named in the brain injury lawsuit that has rocked rugby, claiming concussions were not taken seriously enough during his career.

Gough is one of 300-odd rugby players suing the sport’s governing bodies and insists he suffered multiple concussions during an 18-year career, but was never told to miss a game as a result of one. He says an atmosphere of peer pressure existed within the sport, leading to players taking the field and putting their health at risk.

Gough has undergone a raft of medical tests and, while he has been spared the devastating diagnosis of some other players, he has shown enough long-term effects of concussion to appear on the lawsuit against the game’s governing bodies. “I had concussions throughout my career but did I miss any games because of it? No I didn’t,” Gough told WalesOnline.

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“I got concussed quite a few times but I never actually missed a game with it. I remember leaving the field concussed after having a bang to the head and as we got into the changing room someone from the staff rubbed my shoulder and said that should be alright for Saturday.

“I realised people weren’t being very sensible around it and that peer pressure was a problem for many. I recall getting concussed up in Leicester after a heavy Martin Cory challenge, and with Pontypridd up in Neath when Rowland Phillips hit me with a heavy high tackle in the first half.

“Despite this I played the whole game. I couldn’t remember where the changing rooms were after full time and I was shivering and a bit delirious so I was showing clear concussion symptoms, but nothing happened from that and I didn’t miss any games.

“There was obviously the big concussion I suffered after being punched and knocked out by Mark Jones in Ebbw vale playing for Pontypridd. I had to have my eye stitched up so had to have a few weeks lay off for that, but no concussion protocols were ever performed then, and I was knocked out cold.

“I didn’t have a clue what it was all about at that point and what damage could be caused from it. It didn’t feel at the time that I had a massive concussion issue that week following the injury and I wasn’t feeling sick.

“There was no protocol and no testing at that point, and nothing we would go through to say one way or the other. That was in 1999.”

During a hugely successful playing career which included spells at Newport, Pontypridd, the Dragons, the Ospreys, and London Irish, Gough was a player who put his body on the line game-after-game.

The 64-times capped Wales lock was a crucial part of Warren Gatland’s Wales side when the New Zealander first took the helm in 2008. Gough was a powerful tackling lock who prided himself on his physicality had no regard for his own wellbeing while on the field of play.

Ian Gough with his wife and children

It was only during the latter stage of his career when attending a talk on concussion did he realise how much damage it can cause the brain. “We were having concussion talks at the Dragons,” he said.

“I remember one of the medical team basically sat us down in one room and told us about secondary concussions, and the danger of fatalities from a secondary concussion before primary concussion had healed. Her point was if you’d gained a secondary concussion, and that primary concussion hadn’t healed yet, it might take several weeks or more to heal depending on the individual.

“If you get a secondary concussion before the first one has healed then you’ve got a 50% chance of fatality. That struck a big chord with me at that meeting. I thought I’ve had loads of concussions and I didn’t know that. I was 38 at that point.”

There remain many people ignorant of t

…. to be continued
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