Johnny Sexton has said if he could go back in time, he would take a different approach in how he divulged his medical information.
Conor Murray’s injury absence, which has seen the Munster and Ireland scrum-half miss the opening weeks of the 2018/19 season, has sparked a debate about how the medical information of professional rugby players is communicated, if at all, in the media.
Murray spoke to the media this week where he revealed that details of the injury were not communicated publicly simply because the nature of the injury was unknown.
In the past we have Jamie Heaslip refuse to communicate the nature of an injury which ultimately led to his retirement.
For Sexton, he has experienced first-hand how the media and the public can misconstrue injuries to form a narrative which can ultimately be damaging for the player.
“If I had my time back again I’d do the same [as Conor Murray],” Sexton said this week. “I can see why. People take what is said in the media as gospel and often it isn’t the case. My example with the stigma of concussion being attached to me, when I haven’t had a lot of them, and suddenly insurance companies don’t want to insure you for concussion because you’ve had loads when you haven’t.
“I can see why players don’t want their information out there because it can just lead to problems in the future and it’s disappointing because it can be twisted and I think at times it’s better just to say nothing.
“Conor has decided to go down that route. I know Jamie has done it previously. To be honest, if I had my time back again, I might have done the same.”
Whatever about the public forming misguided opinions based on miscommunication, it is the player who pays the price, literally. Insurance companies take wind of the general narrative and ultimately, they will be hesitant or will demand higher premiums to insure players.
If a particular player then tries to clarify the situation and set the record straight, they can be criticised for doing so, as Sexton recalls.
“100%. That’s exactly what happened. You can come out and try and clarify things and people will criticise you for trying to clarify and say ‘you’re only looking out for yourself and not the generation that is coming after you. You should be more responsible’.
“I was only trying to tell the truth and it’s still not taken. You can’t win and I think that’s why in some ways Conor is right to hold onto his privacy.
“It could be something small they’re trying to look after him with and if he releases it, it’ll be blown out of proportion so it’s probably a clever move by him.”
As for Sexton’s dealings with insurance companies now, the past still very much has an impact on the present.
“I’m still trying to resolve them.”
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