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Sexton is frustrated concussion stigma has stuck with him

By David Kelly

Jonathan Sexton knows the drill by now. The reluctant poster boy for all that we know - and the much more that we don't - about concussion is primed for the questions.

That he remains, patiently and willingly, prepared to answer the new queries, as well as some of the old ones, says a lot for him.

Then again, he has skin - and his head - in the game. This is his well-being. His living.

Sexton's health and well-being continues to arouse as much interest as his status as the world's (second) best out-half.

Keith Wood and Brian O'Driscoll continue to hope, in vain, that he may try to amend the tackle technique that, once more, saw him depart prematurely against Exeter in the RDS before Christmas.

And, whether he has been concussed or not, the fact that the nature of his latest head injury can cause confusion on prime-time television hardly helps.

The player admits culpability for leading Joe Schmidt, and the Irish public, astray from the podium of the RTÉ Sports Awards in December, before official clarification that Sexton passed some of the elements of his HIA, but did not pass others, itself arguably a stunning declaration that the sport's deployment of the HIA is palpably struggling to maintain credibility.

"I can take part of the blame for that," he said of the confusion that arose when Schmidt seemed to gainsay Leinster coach Leo Cullen. "I spoke with Joe after the game and told him that I was fine, that I was a bit shook by the initial contact but that I passed all my questions, which was true, but we thought it was best not to go back on the pitch.

"That was why I failed my HIA. It wasn't bad but I got it on the soft part of my head. Was I concussed? No, probably not but was it the right decision not to go back out? Probably, yeah."

Given his well-publicised difficulties during 2014 when, while playing in France, he was stood down for four months because of concussion, he is asked did he feel any sense of deja vu.

"What happened in France was precautionary. I picked up one bad one and two mild knocks and this guy says: 'You've had a few knocks to the head and normally the protocol is that you take some time off'.

"I argued it tooth and nail. I didn't want to take 12 weeks off. I've been stuck with this stigma of concussion being attached to me when I have probably had maybe two or three."

So, again, you ask him about his tackling technique - he prefers to go high, rather than low.

"It's not foolproof, if you go low you can get a bang on the head," he said. "I've been criticised before for my defence, I've gone low before, but I'm a tall guy so I don't generally have a great position when I go low."

Who can truly contradict one of the world's best. It remains the responsibility of his sport to change, not him.

Belfast Telegraph

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