Southland man to do concussion tests at Wallabies v Springboks match
A keen pair of Southland eyes will be keeping the health of Wallabies and Springboks in check when the two teams face off in Australia next month.
Invercargill-born doctor Tane Eunson will take his seat on the sideline as a "neutral doctor", tasked with assessing players for concussion during the September 9 match.
The former head boy at James Hargest College said he had always dreamed of working in sports medicine.
While studying engineering at the University of Canterbury, Eunson suffered a serious spleen injury while playing rugby, which forced a change of perspective on life.
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"I cross-credited out to a bachelor of science, moved to Perth and did honours in sports science," Eunson said.
Several years working on oil rigs made the 32-year-old realise he wanted to be a doctor "and chase the sports dream all the way".
Two pre-seasons with now-Super Rugby champion Crusaders was "dream come true kind of stuff" for the proud Southlander.
"I was there mainly in a strength and conditioning capacity because of my honours degree in sports science."
He received guidance during his second pre-season under "legendary rugby doctor" Deb Robinson, he said.
Since 2015, Eunson has been involved with the Western Force rugby team, in between orthopaedic surgery shifts at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital – his "proper job".
"I help out behind the scenes, again a lot to do with concussion testing, and this year worked at all the home games as part of the match-day medical team," Eunson said.
He was also team doctor for the Western Force under-20s team and travelled with them throughout Australia, actively caring for players "rather than on the sideline, reviewing or testing the guys under the stands, like I do with the senior guys".
During his time with the senior team, Eunson worked closely with Nick "The Honey Badger" Cummins, the rather humorous Perth and Wallabies player.
"What you see on the TV is pretty well how he's like off camera too … just great fun to be around, always up for a laugh or a strum on the guitar."
In September, the Invercargillite would be part of a five-person "neutral doctor" team, assessing players for signs of concussion.
"I can review [replay footage] and if I suspect someone may have suffered a concussion … I can relay this to the team doctor and have that player removed from the field to be examined by either myself of another doctor."
Obvious signs of concussion included players having a seizure or being off-balance, but more subtle signs included abnormal behaviour, disorientation or memory loss.
"We take them under the stands and test their memory, balance, co-ordination and for any symptoms. All players have a similar test done during pre-season and we can use their previous result as a baseline."
Eunson said he was living his dream working with professional athletes, and hoped to work with the All Blacks one day.
"Not a single day did I get up and go to the Crusaders where it felt like the monotony of work, which is not something I can honestly say I've felt before.
"I hope to return home to New Zealand in the next few years and get back into the rugby scene there because it's just bloody fulfilling, great fun and how I want to spend my days."