It will sound callous and for now will feel like the opposite, but James Broadhurst retiring is a good thing.

It's a good thing for Broadhurst, even better for rugby and an unflinchingly positive reflection of modern sport.

Simply, it's the new, unfortunate reality for codes built on contact: early retirements should be mourned, certainly, but equally lauded by all involved.

Lauded by those at home, whose alternative would be to watch between fingers as a 'recovered' Broadhurst runs head-first into a hip and ends up flat on his back.

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Lauded by his coaches, who would be charged with winning a game, yes, but more importantly charged with safeguarding a player whose health has faced serious questions.

And, above all, lauded by his peers, who risk it all to chase a ball. The athletes are where the news of Broadhurst's retirement will reverberate the loudest, athletes who will now think of his fate the next time they suffer a head knock.

Or, at least, that's what they should be thinking. Sport has never been a stranger to hyperbole - just consider those who greet a game on Anzac Day as a chance for ill-considered war metaphors. But concussion is unmistakably a matter of life and death.

There's more than enough evidence that head knocks cannot only impact the quality of life for a retired player but, in the worst case, end that very life.

That must now be what every sportsman and sportswoman considers when the fog of concussion descends and, knowing as much, is it any wonder players of Broadhurst's calibre are seeing the warning signs, sensibly assessing the inherent danger of another run and deciding a life away from sport will be the one best lived?

It's an ugly truth and it's hard to reconcile with the win-at-all costs mentality that for so long pervaded sport, no matter the level or code. And it should be discomfiting - because concussion sure is.

Concussion can take a young person who was previously a pillar of fitness and leave them a dizzy, disoriented shell of their former self. Forget about reaching the highest level; reaching the mailbox can be an achievement.

Just ask Charlie Ngatai, who has spent the past 11 months dealing with debilitating symptoms of the concussion scourge, finally appearing as one of the lucky few whose head cleared enough to enable his return to the field.

Or, since this is plainly not an issue exclusive to rugby, ask Joe Thomas, an NFL lineman for the Cleveland Browns who this week revealed, at 32, he's already suffering memory loss, venturing to the supermarket only to forget what spurred the visit.

Both Ngatai and Thomas will continue their careers, which is entirely their choice, given no one knows a player's body and mind better than the player in question.

But their happy endings should not be instructive; it's Broadhurst's denouement that must be the example issued to young players dreaming of a future in rugby.

A future filled with the spoils produced by sport, like the one All Black cap Broadhurst earned, a number that would have surely swelled were it not for his misfortune.

But, as is increasingly apparent, a future filled with the unceasing possibility of it all coming crashing down with one crushing blow.

One minute, thoughts of that future are concentrated on the next tackle, the next carry, the next contract. In a moment, they can change to thoughts of destitution, homelessness, or worse.

Broadhurst, in his last act as a rugby player, has performed an invaluable duty by ignoring the former and focusing on the latter. Hopefully his cohort is listening.