George North Reveals The Stark Career Choices He Must Make After Suffering Latest Concussion

Northampton Saints v Wasps - Aviva Premiership

Almost immediately after suffering his fifth career concussion during the Premiership fixture between the Northampton Saints and Leicester Tigers, medical experts began calling on George North to retire.

Leading the chorus was former World Rugby medical adviser Dr. Barry O’Driscoll, who in an interview with BBC Radio Wales, called on North to consider retiring, arguing “as an amateur you would say there is no way you must play again”.

However, in the same interview O’Driscoll sympathised with winger and other professional players who face difficult financial choices when it comes to making a decision to retire early.

As a professional player, and some people have very dangerous professions, it’s not quite so simple.

After four or five [concussions] you do consider it but I can fully understand because of his professional commitments, as it’s his livelihood, he might be reluctant to.

This raises a concern over the professional game, particularly at lower levels. In a month that has also seen London Welsh liquidate, forcing them to make players and staff redundant, should young players consider a potential career in rugby if their future health is being put at risk.

Writing in The Telegraph earlier this week, Austin Healey wrote about the struggles facing Championship players who earn between £6,000-£10,000 a year. On such a salary these individuals can hardly afford private health insurance, and are forced to leave their well being in the hands of clubs who are barely surviving.

There is also the story of Andrew Coombs, a Six Nations winner with Wales in 2013, who faces massive medical bills after claiming that the Newport Gwent Dragons cancelled his health insurance policy two months after retiring due to injury.

The former lock requires further pain management before facing more surgery to return his left kneecap into it’s correct position. Although Coombs is a qualified plumber, he can’t travel to work due to the manual gearboxes used by his company’s vans, and even if he could drive the 32 year-old is unable rest on his knees.

Perhaps the most heartbreaking aspect of Commbs’ story is the fact that he cannot play with his two kids due to pain.

This brings us back to North, who despite being one of the most iconic wingers in the northern hemisphere, is concerned about the financial consequences of retiring at 24 years of age. In a telling extract from an interview published in the Daily Mail, North told Sam Peters,

If a player decided to pack the game in tomorrow, the question I ask is, who pays their mortgage? No one will, except that person. No one’s going to pay his mortgage or look after his family. He’s got to do it somehow. What’s important is looking after them [family]. That’s all I think about.

While this is a frightening summation of the choices facing North, imagine what it must be like for players on the fringes of professional teams who are barely earning enough money to pay the bills, never mind mortgages or health care.


On this week’s edition of the Oval Office Podcast, we speak to Jamie Roberts and look ahead at the festive fixture list.

Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena

Read More About: andrew coombs, Austin Healey, george north, leicester tigers, newport gwent dragons, northampton saints, Top Story

Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team. View all posts by The PA Team