Rugby star's stroke scare sounds alert

By Patrice Dougan

A person suspected of suffering a stroke should not even drive a car, never mind play a game of rugby, a stroke expert says.

It comes as it was revealed Blues star Piri Weepu played three games for the Super Rugby side after a stroke that was diagnosed as a migraine.

Weepu went to doctors unable to speak properly. Blues doctor Stephen Kara said he sounded "like he was drunk". He then complained of a headache and nausea.

His young age - at 30 - was given as one of the reasons why the condition was not considered, Blues management said yesterday.

"If he was a 65-year-old male who was sitting in my consulting room with those symptoms, stroke would be one of the first things I would have thought of," said Dr Kara.

"Given he's 30 years old, whilst we were thinking of it, it was the least likely diagnosis."

It is thought Weepu suffered a minor stroke on March 1. But once his slurred speech corrected he was given the all clear, with medics believing he had a migraine.

But he continued to complain of a difficulty articulating his words, and he was scheduled for an MRI scan on Monday, which showed evidence of a small stroke, Dr Kara said.

"It's such a small, subtle area on the scan, he was fortunate that it wasn't a bigger incident and that's why he could continue to play," he said.

Dr John Fink, consultant neurologist at Christchurch Hospital and the honorary medical adviser for the Stroke Foundation of New Zealand, said anyone displaying signs of a stroke should seek a doctor, no matter their age.

"If there had been signs of a stroke then you would be clearly advising someone to immediately go to hospital, and not to drive their car even."

Dr Fink ruled out the cause of Weepu's stroke as being from head injuries caused by rugby, saying strokes are triggered by blood clots travelling up to the brain from other parts of the body such as a tear in a neck artery, or a malformation in the heart.

Dr Kara also ruled out any direct relationship between the stroke and Weepu's rugby career. Tests would confirm the source of the stroke but otherwise he was expected to "make a full recovery".

- APNZ

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