Johnny Sexton Frustrated With Stigma That Forever Hangs Over Him
“I don’t know how many times I have to talk about this.”
Ireland and Leinster star Johnny Sexton is sick and tired of the ‘stigma of concussion’ which has attached itself to his career. The talented playmaker is constantly quizzed on his welfare ever since he was forced to take an extended break while in France.
Most recently the issue grabbed headlines again, with Sexton forced off in Leinster’s Champions Cup fixture against Exeter last month. Ireland coach Joe Schmidt said he passed his HIA, but Leinster later clarified that he had indeed failed.
Those conflicting reports caused a stir, but Sexton has revealed he was to blame for that.
“Look, I can take part of the blame for that because I spoke with Joe after the game and told him that I was fine, that I was a bit shook by the initial contact but that I passed all my questions, which was true, but we thought it was best not to go back on the pitch because of how I felt on the pitch.” Sexton said
“That was why I failed my HIA. I failed my HIA before I probably started it. So, the decision was probably made even by how I reacted to the tackle.”
“It wasn’t that bad but I just got it on the soft part of my head. Was I concussed? No, probably not but was it the right decision not to put me back out? Probably, yeah, because I was probably startled by the collision.”
In terms of his time off in France, Sexton says it was very precautionary. He says he’s only had two or three concussions throughout his career, and that the decision to take a break while at Racing 92 has attached the stigma of concussion to him.
“What happened in France was very precautionary,” Sexton insists
“I don’t know how many times I have to talk about this. I picked up three mildish…sorry, one bad one and two mild knocks and this guy [the doctor] says: ‘look, you’ve had a few knocks to the head over the course of a few months and normally the protocol is that you take some time off’.
“He said: ‘I recommend that you do that. They have signed up in France that this doctor makes all the calls. So, look, I argued it tooth and nail. I didn’t want to take the 12 weeks off. I’d rather have just a couple of weeks off because I was actually fine after two or three weeks and I suppose I’ve been stuck with this stigma of concussion being attached to me when I have probably had maybe two or three ever in my career.
In fact, the worst concussion Sexton ever got according to him, was never even picked up by the media.
“Is there times people are knocked down, get back up and play on? Of course there is. One of my worst ones [concussion] ever was about 10 years ago, it was probably my only really bad one, and nobody would have known. I made the tackle, got up and literally no one would have known. But the guys beside me knew, I was calling calls that didn’t exist, and was arguing they were right.”
Sexton’s tackle technique has also been questioned, as the Ireland international tends to go high, looking to hold the ball up. Sexton argues that going low isn’t always the answer, using Clermont youngster Samuel Ezeala as an example.
Ezeala tried to go low on Racing 92 centre Virimi Vakatawa over the weekend, resulting in a horrific collision.
“It’s not foolproof, if you go low you can get a bang in the head. I saw one over the weekend, a guy goes low and gets a knee in the head. I don’t buy it fully in terms of going high can cause…I’ve been criticised before for my defence, as a young guy, it wasn’t up to scratch, I tried to improve it, could I go low?
“I’ve gone low before, but often in that  channel it’s about trying to stop the ball and I’m a tall guy so I don’t generally have a great position when I go low.”