British & Irish Lions 2013
Lions doctor wary of crowded schedule
September 9, 2012
Doctor James Robson is set to be selected for his sixth successive tour with the Lions next summer © Getty Images
The man responsible for maintaining the health and fitness of the British & Irish Lions on their past five tours has expressed his concern about a fixture log-jam that could lead to an injury crisis.
Dr James Robson, the Scottish Rugby Union medical chief who is poised to make it six tours in a row when the Lions head to Hong Kong and Australia next year, fears the clash between the end of the European domestic season and the start of the Lions' latest odyssey could spark a casualty list to rival the unprecedented player carnage seen in South Africa in 2009.
The Aviva Premiership and RaboDirect PRO12 seasons reach a climax two days before the Lions are due to fly out with the Top 14 finale in France taking place a week later and on the same day the Lions tackle the Barbarians in Hong Kong. "I'm not a match administrator, I'm a medic but my desire would have been for the finals not to be where they are," Robson told the Independent on Sunday.
Robson is buoyed by the International Rugby Board's continued efforts to address player welfare but the scars of the Lions' last bruising trip remain including the exceptionally brutal second Test against the Springboks when five Lions players were injured.
That was just unacceptable, five people and myself in an ambulance going to hospital," he said. "Unfortunately there is nothing to say that it wouldn't happen again, though it would be exceptional.
"But by the strategies the International Rugby Board and others are putting in place and the worldwide standards of care, we would hope it wasn't repeated. We have had annual medical conferences run by the IRB, attended by countries way beyond the Lions. There have been changes to the laws, such as use it or lose it and the five seconds to play the ball at the ruck, that will speed up the game. The more muscle-bound players might have had to slim down a little, because you need your mobility, you need your agility and your speed. Certainly the IRB have come out with statistics showing the injury rate has plateaued.
"At least on the tour you are able to manage players with a fairly large, dedicated medical staff," Robson said. "It was just as well we did that in '09 because it was such a physical tour. I'll admit the number of games hasn't changed greatly since 1997 but training has been modified."
2009 British & Irish Lions casualty list: (Independent on Sunday)
Selected but unable to tour in 2009:
Injured on tour:
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