Sport is by its nature a short career. A well-worn cliche but evidently a point of fact. A brief window of youth, vigour and talent which compels viewers of all ages with wonder at the possibilities of human endeavour and spirit
With reward comes risk, of course. Matt Scott, the 39-times capped Scotland centre who is thankfully back ship-shape after over five months out with a concussion injury, is well aware that he is in a lucky position compared to others.
A good bank of a career already behind him, a law degree under his belt, back at his home city club in the care of an SRU medical team he knows and trusts, the 28-year-old is keen to acknowledge he is fortunate compared to others.
“There are guys who wouldn’t care, they just want to play rugby. Rugby is their life and that’s everything,” said Scott as he reflected on what he admitted was a “horrendous” period of months out after suffering a head injury in Edinburgh’s Heineken Champions Cup pool-stage victory over Toulon at BT Murrayfield back in October.
“If it got to the stage where it was a real risk to my health then I would probably stop. If you play rugby you are putting yourself in that vulnerable position.”
Concussion in contact sports like rugby, and its long-term effects, is a story that won’t and shouldn’t go away. Rugby’s governing bodies have responded, with awareness, guidance and protocols now at a high level.
There remains, though, the doubt of the unknown and the bottom-line truth that, for some not as fortunate as Scott, the admirable slogan “if in doubt sit them out” means out of pocket. I’ve seen it in the professional game,” said the product of Currie, who is back in Edinburgh for a second spell following a stint at Gloucester,
“Guys are saying they have a headache but they just don’t tell them [medics].
“It’s easy to say I would never play with a headache, but you’ve got guys who are perhaps coming to the last two or three months of their contracts, they don’t have a club for next year, and they’re thinking, I’ve got a bit of a headache but I’m not going to declare that because I need to play because no-one will pick me up if I’ve not played with the concussion.’ Even coming up to World Cup time, if somebody picks up a head knock before they get on the plane to Japan .... Do you mention it or do you not? It’s interesting.”
Scott, who scored a try in last Saturday’s win at Scarlets as he continues his comeback, admits it has been a frustrating wait to get back in the fray.
“It was horrendous,” he revealed. “It couldn’t have happened at a worse time. We were going into [Scotland] camp for the autumn Tests. Basically, I got a forearm to my head on the stroke of half-time [against Toulon]. I wasn’t knocked out but I remember thinking that it was quite a big blow to my head. At half-time I felt a bit groggy but I’ve felt fine and went out and played and finished the game. I came into Scotland camp on the Sunday and I thought I was fine, but on the Monday in the gym we were doing some light weights and I felt sick and dizzy.
“I was thinking then that I would be fine for the next week, for the next game. But next week becomes next month and it dragged on for five months with headaches every day. It is such an intangible injury. There are no scars and no broken bones.”
Last week, Scotland and Leicester No.8 David Denton revealed that his World Cup dream was over after being ruled out for the rest of the season with his latest head injury. Scott and his former Edinburgh team-mate have provided mutual support at a difficult time.
“I’m close with Dave and it was good to know that I wasn’t the only one experiencing this,” continued Scott. “They [medical support] are big on you being honest with them, saying you have still got a headache. For someone like Dave, who is on his third or fourth bad one and has just had a kid, you do start to have those conversations with yourself. For me, it’s my first real big one and I feel sort of fine now. I wouldn’t say I got to the stage where I asked if it was worth it but, if you ask me after my second or third – hopefully I don’t get there –my answer might be different.”