Concussion with Dan Mugford
Blog By Dan Mugford
Professional Rugby Union Player
Position: Fly half / Centre
Current Club: Plymouth Albion RFC
Played for: London Scottish, Sale, Nottingham
Something many of us rugby professionals have been unfortunate to suffer at some point during our career.
I’m not the biggest guy, and with a game full of giants these days, I pride myself on punching above my weight. But that often means I don’t shy away from putting my head where it hurts so to speak. I’ve had my fair share of knocks to the head. My first memory of concussion was probably around the age of 16. Its stuck with me. I can remember it being a horrible wet day playing away in Tavistock in a local cup game. After the game I began to feel sick and a lump began to show on my head by my temple. After throwing up a few times I began to settle again and feel a little better and we realised it was concussion not dodgy chips from the club kitchen after the game. Since then I’ve had numerous time out of the game due to concussion, most recently I was forced a prolonged break after being knocked completely unconscious during a pre-season game.
It was the 18th August and we were playing Exeter University in our second pre-season fixture. I was on the bench after starting the week before on my return from a 6 month lay out due to a broken arm. Into the second half I was called upon to join the fray. Within 90 seconds I was unconscious on the floor. I was excited to get involved in the game and on my second involvement, as I braced to put in a tackle, the ball carrier was knocked towards me by one of my own players, his hip bone clattering into my temple. I was out before I hit the floor. The next thing I know the physios are holding my neck and asking me questions.
This is where it got a little scary for me. I opened my eyes and as far as I was concerned I was absolutely fine. I tried to tell the medical staff there was nothing wrong with me and to let me carry on with the game. They checked off my spine and with blood coming from my head took me off the field, where I continued to argue with them at why I wasn’t allowed to re-join the game. The first time I realised it was a little more serious was when I went to watch the remainder of the game with our Head Coach Kieran Hallett.
“I don’t understand why they won’t let me go back on mate, sorry. I’m fine!”
His reply was what got me;
“Muggy, you were gone, completely out for a good 20/30seconds mate. We’re just glad you’re OK.”
Well that sure shut me up. I immediately started to think of the repercussions. I’d just played my first rugby in 6 months, the last thing I wanted was to miss the start of the season! I tried to complete my SCAT test at the end of the game and was still pushing for the fact I might be fine. But then I started to feel worse and worse. I remembered back to 2 years previous whilst playing at Sale Sharks. I’d hit my head in the first half, but I knew we didn’t have another fly half on the bench, so tried to carry on. Eventually it got too much, and I asked the Doctor to take me off. Whilst in the Doctor’s room I started to feel nauseous and my condition deteriorated. They made the decision it was best to take me into hospital. Whilst there I vaguely remember being completely disorientated, scared, with no idea what was going on, I was sick, I started to panic and fit. Thanks to the team Doctor who stayed with me the whole time I managed to get my brain scan and get some sleep which calmed down the disorientation.
So back to the 18th August, the last thing I wanted was to be back in that place, it was genuinely the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced. So mid-way through my SCAT test I admitted to myself I just wasn’t right. I got my cut stitched up and got a lift home to try and relax for the evening.
Most of the time with concussion after a few days you either feel the same, or things begin to get better, on this occasion my symptoms actually continued to get worse. I had to take a trip to the hospital where they found blood behind my ear drum, a common sign of a fractured skull. I went off for scans and thankfully my brain function was all ok and if there was a fracture, it was only hairline.
The diagnosis certainly made me stop and realise that had it not have been for the great medical staff, I could have put myself in an incredibly dangerous situation with a fractured skull trying to play on. I’ve always been one to support the safety around concussion but as a player sometimes it can be very hard to know if you are ok or not. At the end of the day, you’re trying to use your injured brain to think about whether your brain is ok. Yeah try work that one out for a minute.
This time it rocked me more than any other. My last two concussions now have been fairly serious. If anything happens to my brain, I can’t just get a new one. I can’t put a metal plate in it and it’ll just fix up like my arm. It has serious repercussions. Is it going to stop me playing? Of course not, I trust the medical professionals around me as well as my ability and technique to keep me as safe as possible, but it certainly did make me stop and think for a while.
We all know rugby is a contact sport, with big physical players and high velocity impact. The introduction of education around concussion through all levels is vitally important to firstly make sure players know the risk of concussion but also the ways to deal with concussion and the management behind a Return to Play process. It’s everyone’s responsibility to look after each other as well as yourselves when it comes to concussion.
Watching the video back of the pre-season game, the Referee stops the game immediately as I hit the floor and the players around me only have my safety in mind before the medical staff arrive. Something that may not have happened 5 years ago. I took a few weeks out, doing nothing apart from rest to try and ensure I wasn’t putting any further strain on my brain. Concussion isn’t something to be messed with and as our friends over the pond in the NFL are finding out in can have quite horrific consequences if not dealt with correctly.
In my next blog I want to talk about the mental health side of injury and concussion and my experience.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the read and look out for the next in the series.