Head knocks force change of career for rugby lover

A knock too many: Oriental-Rongotai lock Dan Reddish
A knock too many: Oriental-Rongotai lock Dan Reddish

After a career of hard knocks, Dan Reddish is putting his brain before his love of rugby.

The Oriental-Rongotai lock called it quits last year, after the last in a long line of head knocks left him dazed and confused for months.

"I was struggling to focus. I had to ride the train with my eyes closed. At work everything was swaying like a boat."

A knock too many: Oriental-Rongotai lock Dan Reddish
A knock too many: Oriental-Rongotai lock Dan Reddish

Even now, eight months later, the 26-year-old says he still feels slow, often struggles for words and trails off mid-thought. He struggles to focus at work without a decent night's sleep, and pushing hard physically still hurts his head.

"There is no doubt that I'm slower. I live with this dull headache all the time."

Related: Test set to end 'witchcraft' treatment of concussion

This weekend he will be back with the club's premier team for the first time since he quit - but as a manager, not a player. "It is going to be hard watching that first one knowing I'm good enough to be out there physically," he says.

Stuck on the sideline, Reddish is thinking a little more carefully about player safety. He is backing moves by the region's district health boards to introduce a one-stop concussion test for the first time.

It is hoped the test will eventually be used nationwide, amid growing evidence of the long-term damage caused by sports-related head trauma.

Reddish has lost count of the times he was concussed. Often the knocks were never picked up by coaches or other players and he would play on, his vision "blurred and turning green".

He was only pulled out of a game completely twice after a head clash, on both occasions after he had been knocked out. While he welcomes more consistent testing, he believes the first step is educating players about the dangers. Many are still not upfront about injuries, fearing to miss out on precious game time.

"Pretty much every player I've played with has got that dazed head and kept playing."

Reddish himself admits to lying during a fitness test, claiming he felt fine so he could back on the field.

"But we really need to hammer home to the guys just how bad it can get."

The Dominion Post