Editorial: Head knocks taken lightly?

GRANT SHIMMIN
Last updated 05:00 08/07/2013

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Sickening. That was the word that leapt to mind on Saturday night when durable Wallabies flanker George Smith clashed heads with British and Irish Lions hooker George Hibbard five minutes into their series-deciding rugby test.

Smith went down quickly, and hard, prompting obvious concerns about the ongoing health of a man who had already announced that the game, his 112th test, would be his last.

Each replay seemed to make the clash look more serious, with Smith clearly the man most affected by the incident.

The obvious conclusion when he went off was that he was done for the night, a bitter blow to the Wallabies after he was brought back by coach Robbie Deans for the decider, pushing Michael Hooper to the bench and Liam Gill out of the line-up.

And yet, just some seven minutes later, apparently having been checked out and passed fit to continue, Smith emerged from the dressing room and rejoined the fray.

There's been no suggestion since the match, which the Wallabies lost comprehensively, that Smith was adversely affected by returning, but there has been some incredulity around at the fact that he was allowed back on the paddock. Former Wallabies winger Ben Tune was unequivocal, jumping on to Twitter to ask "When the f... are we going to take head knocks seriously? Wait until someone dies? Makes a joke of player welfare Smith being allowed back on."

Tune, a 46-test veteran, may have no direct knowledge of the Smith situation, but his concern, especially coming from a former player of his calibre, is telling.

So let's ask the question, given that players who suffer concussions are supposed to be stood down for a recovery period, is it possible for someone to be checked out and conclusively cleared of concussion, so quickly after an incident like that? Even if he was insistent, should Smith have been allowed back on?

Ultimately, he didn't help the Wallabies to win, but it seems entirely possible that in trying, he was risking his own health. Admirable maybe, but it is, really, only a game.

Another thing: Whenever we carry a story about people in need, readers respond selflessly, as was again the case for working single mother Barbara Wright, whose inability to afford to properly heat her home was highlighted in Thursday's newspaper.

The response from two readers, was exceptional, and Ms Wright's reaction totally understandable. Thank you for lightening her burden. Your generosity is humbling.

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- The Timaru Herald

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