Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Day 10 - Dublin, Ireland

Acquired Brain Injury Ireland

This morning I had the pleasure of meeting with Karen O’Boyle and Donnchadh Whelan of Acquired Brain Injury Ireland, which has a charter very similar to the Brain Injury Association of America, where I proudly serve on the board. ABII primary works to serve those with moderate to severe brain injury, but they hope to launch a sports concussion campaign this fall. Unfortunately I should not speak too much about their experience in trying to partner with various organizations for the campaign, other than to say it is familiar to my experience prior to 2010. Two former rugby players, Bernard Jackman and John Fogarty, have stepped forward to discuss their post-concussion symptoms a la Ted Johnson in 2007 in the US, and ABII is working with them and building momentum. I hope I can help them. We finished with a nice photo shoot by a professional photographer in the lovely courtyard of the Merriam - these guys are class acts - enjoy!


Next I went to the offices of the Irish Rugby Union Players Association in Dublin to meet with CEO Omar Hassanein, Hamish Adams, and Dr. Mick Molloy. Interestingly, Dr. Molloy was one of the authors of the Zurich guidelines and was the top medical consultant to the International Rugby Board until very recently. Details are sketchy but I think there is a difference of opinion on proper concussion protocols….

I presented our SLI and BU CSTE work to them and I was very well received. Omar said he spent part of the time realizing new concussions he’d had as a star playing in Australia. Hamish is also a former player out of New Zealand, and we discussed the challenges facing the game of rugby and opportunities to make the game safer. They were excited about the idea of educating their players and I hope we can work together to make that happen.

RTE Radio

We then headed to RTE studies to do a live half hour special radio broadcast on “Sports at Seven.” It was a follow up to an interview I did with them back in January. They had never before done a 30 minute program specifically on what has been considered a taboo subject, and they considered it very successful. I was joined by Donnchadh Whelan of ABII again and on the phone by Dr. Conor McCarthy, medical director of the Irish Rugby Football Union, a famous boxer who I unfortunately didn’t catch the name of, and another doctor with the same problem. The show went well – the information felt elementary, but I have to remind myself that we are starting back at the beginning in Ireland in many ways.

Dinner with Dr. McCarthy

To end the day we met with Dr. McCarthy, who I had just spoken to on the radio, for dinner at the Pearle Brassiere. The more I spoke with him, the more I understood why when his name is brought up everyone in Ireland says, “what a great guy.” He was even the doctor for a former Irish president. We had a great time discussing his experience training in the US and his thoughts on the concussion problem in rugby. One current discussion in rugby is the lack of a ‘brain bin’ – the ability for a doctor to pull a player off the field to assess them. More on that tomorrow…

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