At the risk of sounding uncaring or, even worse, a hypocrite, I don't think we need worry too much about Ryan Crotty.
Actually, that's the wrong way of putting it. Of course we should worry about Crotty, just like we should worry about anybody playing a collision sport in this age of players who are uniformly carved from solid blocks of protein.
But the outpouring of concern over Crotty's health is unfair on the individual and more than likely counterproductive. Let me count the ways.
1. We Just Don't Know
This point is elemental. Most, if not all, of the people opining on his future have no access to his medical file. We have no idea how quickly he has recovered from previous concussions. We don't know if he is suffering from any post-concussion syndrome symptoms – aversion to light, migraines, rapid mood swings and so on – or whether he typically bounces back quickly. We don't know his genetic code, because genes certainly play a role in brain function. We don't know his baseline testing.
There is so much about his circumstances that we don't know that make it unfair on him to speculate.
2. He Is Not Going Through This Alone
While there is plenty we have no idea about, what we can safely assume is that he is being tended to by medical professionals with his best interests at heart.
Call me naïve, but the days of the coach knocking on the hotel door the next night, putting his arm around the shoulder of the player and saying, "Look Ryan, I know you've had a wee bump on the noggin but we really need you this week," are gone. This is especially true at the professional level, where everything is scrutinised to the nth degree.
The latest accident was grotesque. If you enjoyed watching Crotty's lights go out in the freak collision with Jack Goodhue, you're a UFC fan, not a rugby fan. But from that point on, everything went as it should. First of all the players on the field – take a bow David Pocock – showed immediate concern and alerted the officials to the incident. Crotty was tended to on the field and removed when appropriate. He spent the rest of the evening under medical supervision.
This is no George Smith against the Lions scenario. It's not even Sonny Bill Williams against the Wallabies in Sydney last year.
We should be pleased about this.
3. He Is An Adult
The notion of free will is important. Crotty deserves the space to make informed, "clear-headed" decisions on his future.
It might be that he gets advice that, for the sake of his long-term health, he might be better off retiring from rugby. It might be that he ignores this and keeps on playing (again, note well, this is purely hypothetical).
We all make choices in life and you'd be surprised how many involve risk. In the US, for example, 72 out of 100,000 motorbikes will be involved in a fatal accident, as opposed to 13 cars. Yet plenty of people choose to ride motorcycles.
As humans we do all sorts of potentially damaging things, from eating fast food to consuming too much alcohol to sliding down mountains on sticks. We do it because we enjoy it.
Rugby players, in general, really like rugby. If one theme was a constant among all the tragic cases of dementia I reported in The Longest Goodbye series, it was that the men themselves wouldn't have swapped their rugby careers for the world.
If Crotty is being irresponsible and it sounds like that is far from the case, he is harming only himself.
4. You See One Thing, You Miss Everything Else
The focus on obvious brain trauma, the really big, symptomatic head clashes, obscures the real dangers in contact sports, the ones that lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
Paradoxically, this understandable focus on concussion has made it too easy for sports administrators to say they're winning the fight.
In June I had the privilege of travelling to Boston to spend time with the foremost CTE and concussion researchers in the world. They know all sorts of stuff that is truly worrying and it might just be that concussion, if treated and recuperated from properly, is some way down the list.
I will write about this in some depth in the near future but there is a sense from some researchers that the rush towards the concussion-is-the-root-of-all-evil narrative has actually been a boon to organisations like the NFL, the NHL and World Rugby because they can say, "Yes, but look what we're doing about it."
And it's true. The recognition of the dangers of concussion is light years from where it was a generation ago.
But it's the long-term exposure to collisions, the vast majority of them sub-concussive and to the naked eye barely perceptible, that shapes as sport's real challenge. It's why I have become convinced that we are only a decade or two away from banning contact sport among pre-teen children (but that is a story for another day).
5. There Are Talented People Working On It
See above, Boston. Science is in a better position to trump (probably not a great word to use today) this issue than emotion.
Crotty has earned our sympathy, but he can do without our diagnoses.
THE WEEK IN MEDIA ...
Nothing beats cricket on the wireless. Here's proof.