VIDEO: O'Callaghan calls for rule changes
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Ireland star Donncha O’Callaghan believes more needs to be done to protect players from the dangers of concussion.
The 38-year-old Worcester captain is hanging up his boots at the end of the season and thinks the mental side of things will be his biggest challenge.
"I think it will be tough for me, I think it will be the area that I’ll probably need to put the most amount of work in. The big thing is that you’re losing your job.
"That happens to everyone, but you are actually losing 30 friends that you hang around with for eight hours a day and there is that dressing room feels and excitement that you like being around. I think that is the area that I’ll miss, but for me, it is about understanding that,"
The former Munster second row feels more needs to be done to tackle depression within the game.
"You are involved in competitive sport with a lot of alpha males that don’t like showing weaknesses and you are afraid to talk about when you are feeling down or something might be getting on top of you.
"And I think that guys certainly need support with that. The players' unions have been good, but I think they need to be better. I think across all areas of it, especially education,"
Several medical studies have shown that head trauma and concussion lead to increased prevalence in depression and it’s something that O’Callaghan can relate to.
"Yeah 100 percent. I can tell you from having a concussion myself. The biggest thing I noticed is that I was edgy, I was grumpy – not myself – looking to get rows with people where normally I’d be hugging them or something like that,"
"That has been one of the greatest improvements of the last three years. Before it stood your teammate up, get him in the line at all costs, don’t look weak. Whereas now it’s ‘my teammate needs help’ and everyone helps. One hundred percent there are more collisions in the sport now and I think we’re all more aware now of head injuries, but I think we need to keep going in the vein we’re going”
"What’s brilliant is collisions from games two days on guys can be tested, whereas before it was ‘don’t show weakness’ and I think that is the wrong type of mentality especially to such an important area like that,"
But O’Callaghan believes more needs to be done to protect players from the dangers of concussion.
"You want the game to be safe. At the moment I do think the collision rate is really, really high. Hopefully, some rule changes that would lead to maybe going back a step to a more skilful game.
"You see the Saracens guys wearing a little chip to register. So hopefully there can be more developments in areas like that to make sure guys are protected. We did a saliva test at the start of this year, I know a few of my teammates who have missed an awful lot of games have gone off and seen neurosurgeons,"
Ireland take on Wales in Dublin on Saturday and it’s a game that O’Callaghan is relishing.
"I think there is an incredible tie with the Welsh. You get on so well with them on tour, they’re really great guys, but then when it comes to one game a year you’d nearly take the heads off each other. I’ve always felt that there was more pressure on you when you are playing Wales at home because especially when you play them away it is a freebie, you can express yourself a bit more.
"It is going to be a tough game. Everyone is looking towards Paddy’s Day and I don’t think that’s the right way to look at it. These next two matches are massive and how we go this Saturday will be really interesting,"