The easy option would have been to skirt around the issue and downplay his symptoms in the public sphere, but by opening up about his frightening brush with concussion, Caelan Doris provided an all too rare insight into devastating effects it can have on current players.
On the same day a group of rugby league players followed their union counterparts by launching legal action against the Rugby Football League, Doris didn’t hold back as he spoke honestly about how he was left needing brain scans earlier this year.
Although concussion is a weekly occurrence in rugby, it is generally only after players retire that they decide to shine a light on the true impact of head knocks.
That’s what made Doris’ revelations all the more startling and given his relative youth, the Leinster and Ireland back-row should be commended for not shying away from his own troubling experience.
It all started at home to Benetton in November 2019, when what should have been a memorable occasion for Doris’ first European start was cut short after 15 minutes after he shipped a head knock.
Then, the following February, his Ireland debut was cruelly ended after only four minutes when he was knocked out against Scotland.
The Mayo native was being well looked after, but following what he describes as a couple of further “minor knocks” including one in an Ireland training session against Ulster last January, he knew he needed to seek further medical attention from a specialist in Birmingham.
With Doris well in contention to tour with the Lions, it was a devastating blow, but he is relieved to have put his health first.
“It was kind of tough making that decision,” he says.
“That was sort of the key one in making the decision to step back and get fully checked out. I had been a little bit worried about some symptoms at that stage.
“The medical staff were very accommodating in getting me seen by the best people. So, I got the battery of tests – everything from cognitive to balance to brain scans, bloods, everything.
“I’m pretty happy with where I am now. I have always got those base lines to look back to, if there are worries again in the future. I am glad I did it, definitely a tough decision at the time, but grateful I did and grateful I am able to play again now.”
For a then 22-year-old to be sent to see a neurologist in the UK, it must have been a terrifying ordeal.
It is only when you listen to Doris speak about his concussion-related symptoms that you understand the severity of what he went through.
“Some cognitive ones, some around concentration, short-term memory sometimes, a little bit of speech stuff, but again, it’s hard to know when you’re getting a few of these knocks and you are sort of hyper aware and hyper vigilant of any deviation from any normal cognitive function,” Doris explains.
“So any sort of... can’t remember someone’s name or the name of something or forget to do something – you’re attributing it to these knocks, which mightn’t actually be the case. So, there is probably a bit of worry around it as well.”
Since his head issues began, Doris has begun to wear a scrum cap, while he recently started wearing specialised head protection designed by a Galway company called N-Pro.
Was he recommended by the medics to wear a scrum cap?
“I actually wasn’t, no,” Doris says.
“So, I think most scrum caps are just seen as protecting from cuts and protecting your ears, whereas this new one is actually a medical device.
“It’s classified as a medical device and has a fair few studies behind it showing that it reduces the force to the head. I was talking to the company towards the end of last year and then just decided to give it a crack this year.
“There are a fair few things you can do to prevent concussion. Tackle tech is obviously huge, neck strength as well to protect the whiplash effect, time out if you are having a few (head knocks) and then building up that threshold again.
“But I thought having an extra layer of foam around my head will do no harm, so I am going to try it for a while and see how I go. I am happy enough wearing it at the minute.”
Doris made a successful return to the international stage during the summer, and he hopes to add to his nine caps over the coming weeks.
Having missed out on so much rugby already in his young career, the 23-year-old is eager to make up for lost time, but not at the expense of his long-term health.