OrthTeam Neurosurgeon John Leach joined presenter Nathan Middleton, Sale Sharks coach Dan Braid, and John's patient Steve McQuen for BBC Radio Manchester's Rugby Union Extra to discuss rugby injuries.

Read the recap of John's interview below, or listen to the full programme here: >> Rugby Union Extra <<


Presenter: From a medical point of view, taking hits high up on the chest it’s obviously not natural but taking hits high up on the chest can be fine can’t it?

John: As a rugby fan and a neurosurgeon you can see both sides of this argument, no one wants to see players being injured. No one wants to see a head, shoulder, or knee versus a head but you can accept that that is an inherent risk in the sport at times. 

We would like to see those injuries minimised, I’m not sure they can be completely eradicated, and from my point of view it’s about players getting urgent and correct treatment when those injuries do occur. 

Presenter: So as a surgeon and a rugby fan, is there a contrast to your professional life and your rugby life, because rugby can be quite a dangerous sport. You teach the right way to tackle and there is a safe way to play but is there a contrast in your head?

John: Not really, rugby’s a fantastic sport - I take my 5 year old son to our local rugby club. Of course we hope people don’t get injured but it doesn’t take away the enjoyment for me - I’m very much a rugby fan.

Presenter: John, do you get many people complaining about injuries from neck rolls in rugby?

John: For head injuries it’s high velocity impacts and high speed, for neck injuries it tends to be in the forward play.

[Referring to Steve Mcquen’s account of his rugby injury] Disc prolapse in rugby players aren’t that uncommon, normally the disc comes out at the side and you get a trapped nerve and arm pain, which normally can be managed with a steroid injection and time, but occasionally (as per this case) a large section of the disc comes out and compresses the spinal cord. 

It’s fairly common surgery for neurosurgeons to perform, but you are moving a disc off the spinal cord so there are risks involved and it’s quite serious from that perspective. 

We were able to remove the disc and fuse the two bones together and put a plate on and that secured the problem. Often with this type of injury unfortunately patients don’t recover fully. The spinal cord is like the brain in that if it is injured it doesn’t always recover.

 What is quite remarkable about Steve is that actually after surgery almost immediately nearly all of his symptoms went away and after a few weeks they fully recovered and he no longer has any detectable sign of spinal cord dysfunction, which is fantastic.



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