Barnes to take extended break
June 13, 2011
Barnes in his protective headgear as he attempts to beat the migraines that have plagued his season © Getty Images
Berrick Barnes has announced he will take an extended break from rugby following the advice of his team doctor and a neurologist.
The Wallabies and Waratahs inside centre is one of Australia's top young players but his season has been intermittent since a head knock in the Waratahs' win against the Queensland Reds back in February.
Barnes returned to the Waratahs fold in round five but left the field in round six, during the match against the Brumbies, after what looked to be a fairly innocuous knock to his head. He then made his comeback against the Melbourne Rebels in Sydney but three weeks later, in round fourteen, he left the field against the Lions with a migraine. His head problems were further confounded in round fifteen after he left the field after 33 minutes once again with a migraine in the Waratahs 33-7 win over the Highlanders.
"The medical staff has been fantastic here and we've been working on this for a long time," said Barnes.
"In the end it's come down to my decision really I think it's probably beneficial both for myself and the team that I take some time away from the game.The positive thing about this footballers' migraine is that there shouldn't be any long term effects, so as long as the diagnosis is 100% correct, and I'm sure it is, then I'll be sweet. I haven't put a time limit on it; it's weeks at the moment and just how many weeks that ends up being, we'll just have to wait and see. I'll still be doing some form of training and gradually building that back up as time goes on, because I need to know whether I can perform that physical exertion and cop the hits, and training will form a part of that."
Barnes' decision has the full backing of Waratahs' head coach Chris Hickey who said the welfare of the player should always come first.
"In professional football there are always guys out there playing with injury, playing through pain and stepping up for their teammates, but when it comes to head injuries you need to take every precaution you can," said Hickey.
"When Berrick took a couple of head knocks against the Crusaders and Brumbies we ensured he took time off on both occasions and we've continued to proceed with caution as the season has unfolded. The footballers' migraines he's getting are an obvious concern and his overall wellbeing needs to come first. We've always taken on the best medical advice and how he feels within himself has to be the prevailing factor."
Barnes looked set to be a key part of the Wallabies jigsaw come the Tri-Nations and the World Cup but these recent developments cast a shadow over his immediate international prospects. Wallabies coach Robbie Deans paid tribute to the 'well respected' Barnes and offered his support for the 25 year old.
"Obviously it is disappointing that he is having to take a break at this time; for the Waratahs, for the Qantas Wallabies, for his team-mates and for the fans, but I've no doubt that everyone understands the reasons why and totally supports the decision that he has made," Deans said.
"How long Berrick is out for will determine what happens next, as far as his career is concerned, but no one will be rushing him. He is warmly regarded and respected within the group. It is important that Berrick takes all of the time that he needs to overcome this issue, and that he is ready both physically and mentally, before he even thinks about playing the game again. In the meantime we will all support him in any way that we can."
Support for Barnes has also come from former Wallaby fly-half Elton Flatley. Flatley, who retired prematurely from the game in 2006, due to concussion, told The Australian that only Barnes will know whether he should continue playing. Flatley, who starred in the 2003 World Cup, admitted his experience with concussion had affected his confidence.
"I got a couple of knocks throughout my career," Flatley said.
"It was on-going for three or four years. Towards the end I got a couple of bigger ones. Then I got hits in games that normally wouldn't affect you, but they started to affect me. I started to hesitate about going into contact. I walked off the field after we played the Western Force and I knew it wasn't working for me. I rang my manager and said 'I'm done.' I'm glad to see they are taking it seriously with Berrick. Deep down Berrick will know how he is feeling. He will be guided by doctors, but he is the only one who will know what's happening.
"He will be receiving excellent medical advice and he will be guided by their opinions, but deep down Berrick will know his own health and he has to be true to that. Berrick is a smart boy. He'll know what to do."
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