Hibs ace on memory blanks and blinding headaches of concussion hell

Boyle left bed-ridden for best part of week with brain injury symptoms
Joe Newell and Martin Boyle at full-time at Ibrox.Joe Newell and Martin Boyle at full-time at Ibrox.
Joe Newell and Martin Boyle at full-time at Ibrox.

Martin Boyle remembers absolutely NOTHING about the experience of being hospitalised with a serious concussion following a sickening on-field clash of heads. But the Hibs winger, who was confined to bed and unable to cope with daylight or noise for the best part of a week following the collision with Rangers defender John Souttar, insists surprising scores in his mental acuity tests – showing that he’s improved on his pre-season baseline results – prove that he’s fully recovered from the brain injury.

Boyle was taken straight from Easter Road to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary after the incident late in the first half of a March 10 Scottish Cup quarter-final, the Socceroos star accompanied in the ambulance by wife Rachel. But the livewire attacker, informed later that his family had rushed to pitch side when they saw him lying immobilised on the ground, admits the entire night was a blur.

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Asked exactly what he remembered, Boyle – released after scans for a potentially serious neck injury came back negative - said: “Nothing. Nothing at all. I don’t remember anything about the game, it’s just a blur, and obviously I got home the same night. But I wasn’t in any condition to have conversations.

“I don’t remember going to hospital. I don’t remember. My wife was in the ambulance, I don’t really remember that.

“I kind of came round after the scans. But after that I was in bed for six days straight.

“I couldn’t cope with daylight, couldn’t look at my phone, it was kind of tough, I was feeling sick. Thankfully I came out the other side of it.

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“There have been worse head knocks than mine. Thankfully everything was in place.”

Admitting he was worried when the first week after the concussion showed minimal improvement, the 30-year-old said: “Yeah, obviously that’s a concern. But the doctors were good, they talked me through the scans, the physio came and checked on me. So there was a lot of care.

“I took the medication when necessary and tried to rest as much as possible. That wasn’t easy with the kids running about! But everyone showed their support, which was nice.

“Absolutely, I was just waiting for the symptoms to pass. And I still get little minor headaches. Nothing to worry about, because I’ve passed all my necessary checks.

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“I did a SCAT5 (Sport Concussion Assessment Tool) test, memory thing every morning, which is part and parcel of it. And I’ve trained every day this week, been symptom free for five days, so the manager asked if I would be ready to play.”

Boyle, who came off the bench for a late cameo in yesterday’s 3-1 loss to Rangers at Ibrox, counts himself fortunate that the timing of the international break gave him space to recover. Even if he’d happily never see one of those SCAT5 tests again.  

He said: “It gives me a bigger headache, having to do a lot of remembering! But it’s just things like 10 words you have to remember, try to say it back, runs of numbers backwards, days of the week and months … it’s actually pretty simple.

 "We do it [the tests] at the start of every season, just in case a concussion does occur. Actually, after the concussion, I beat the score that I had pre-season. That doesn't make sense, so it's a bit of a funny story to come of it! But thankfully I'm in the clear.

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"I think I had one (a concussion) at Hamilton a couple of years ago. The goalkeeper smacked me in the back of the head. I was taken to hospital, but it was nowhere near as severe as that one. These things happen; you've got to be brave.”

Thrilled to be back in training and then let off the leash in the closing stages at Ibrox, Boyle said: “I eased my way back into it, a little bit on the bike to see how I managed. With return to play (protocols), I'm kind of eager to play all the time, but they put on the brakes for a few days. So it was just building it up. Hopefully I can start preparing to start matches again.

“The head feels much better. It was obviously a difficult period, but the international break came at a good time, so I had time to recover.

“Obviously it wasn’t ideal what happened. In terms of the precautions, everyone did the right thing, got me into the best possible care, which was brilliant.

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“It’s not nice having your family members rush down from the stands, you know? I like to put a scare into people! It wasn’t nice. Thankfully I’ve managed to recover.

“I love playing football. I've done it all my life and when you are injured and missing out, it's not ideal. You always have that buzz in your stomach. Obviously, I wanted to come on and make an impact against Rangers, but it wasn't to be. I'll keep working hard - and give the manager a headache for next week.”

Hibs need a maximum of six points from their next two games to have any chance, realistically, of reclaiming a top-six spot from Dundee, Boyle admitting: "We'll go out to hopefully get them. Dundee are obviously in a strong position but it was our ambition at the start of the season to be near the top of that table. We all have to come together, look back at that game, stick together and we'll go again.

"We need to win the games, that's part and parcel of where we want to be. We can't be looking for other results. As long as win our games and look after ourselves, hopefully we can climb into the top six and have a strong end to the season.”