Former Springbok flyhalf Pat Lambie has opened up on his decision to retire from professional rugby. Sport24 reports that his decision was due to post-concussion problems.
Lambie, who has played 56 times for South Africa, had been expected to return at the end of January after eight months on the side-lines, but is quoted in the report as saying that he decided to end his career following numerous concussions and “persistent post-concussion symptoms”. Lambie said he had already contemplated retirement before arriving in France after three concussions in South Africa, “two of them serious.” After the last, in May 2017, he did not play for six months.
He suffered a further concussion at Oyonnax in December 2017. The symptoms, he said, “lasted about 40 days”. “I was able to play again at the end of February (2018), I felt OK but I was not at my best,” he said.
The report says he appeared in the European Cup final in May but limped off with a ligament injury as Racing lost to Leinster. He said that as his knee recovered the concussion symptoms grew worse. He described “trembling legs,” headaches, migraines and eye irritations.
“I have not been able to do any weight sessions in the last two and a half months because I had a terrible headache. I followed the advice of two neurologists,” he said.
“They advised me to stop rugby.”
The report says his decision to retire came as “a shock” to team-mate Dimitri Szarzewski. “I immediately imagined myself in his place,” said former France hooker Szarzewski, who is 35, adding that when Lambie arrived “we knew he was a bit fragile.”
Fullback Brice Dulin said Lambie had off-field developments to focus on. “Pat is the same age as me, it’s weird. But it’s a decision of life, he will be a dad very soon,” Dulin is quoted in the report as saying. “I just hope that in a few months we will have a nice tribute to him.”
Lambie has admitted to both disappointment and relief after announcing his retirement from rugby. According to an Africa ESPN report, a fit Lambie would in all likelihood have been part of the Springboks squad at the Rugby World Cup in Japan later this year, but he says he is no longer willing to risk his health on the rugby field.
“It is a really big decision and I have extremely mixed emotions about it,” Lambie told sarugbymag.co.za. “I am bitterly disappointed and sad because I still have some dreams on the rugby field, and I feel like some good playing days are ahead of me. But on the other hand, I feel relieved to know that I will not be at risk of further, more serious head injuries.”
The report says Lambie, who has endured a number of concussions in the past three years that have limited his time on the pitch, said it took longer to recover after each one. “I am following the advice of two neurologists, one in South Africa and one in France, both of whom I have seen on a number of occasions,” Lambie said.
“Considering the number of concussions I have suffered, and above that, the amount of time it takes to shake off the symptoms afterwards, it is better to avoid the risk of further head injuries. We have tried rest, medication, neck treatment, jaw treatment, eye rehabilitation, multivitamins, and now I am to avoid any strenuous exercise and sports that require contact. Therefore, I am retiring from the game completely.”
The report says Lambie made his Test debut in 2010 and appeared for South Africa at the past two World Cup tournaments. His played his 56th and last Test for the Springboks against Wales in November, 2016.