Aviva Premiership
Ansbro breaks neck in pre-season clash
ESPN Staff
August 27, 2012
Scotland's Joe Ansbro looks dejected,  Scotland v Wales, Six Nations, Murrayfield, Edinburgh, Scotland, February 12, 2011
Joe Ansbro won the last of his 11 Scotland caps against Samoa earlier this year © Getty Images
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London Irish and Scotland centre Joe Ansbro suffered a broken neck in his side's pre-season victory over Munster on Friday night but has escaped nerve damage.

The Exiles morale-boosting 34-10 success at Musgrave Park was overshadowed by the worrying incident with play held up for 10 minutes before the 26-year-old was stretchered off and taken to hospital. He remains under observation in Cork but is expected to be flown home later this week.

Ansbro, who won the last of his 11 caps against Samoa in June, suffered fractured vertebrae but still has feeling in his hands and feet. "He's got a triple fracture of the C1 vertebrae at the top of his spine," Ansbro's father Paul told BBC Scotland.

"They've put a metal halo on his head that's got to be in place 24/7 for three months. They did a CAT scan and an MRI scan, and they've had a neurosurgeon looking after him," he added.

"He was really lucky that it was what they call a stable fracture and there's no nerve damage. That was the thing they were most concerned about; Joe's still got movement in his hands and feet.

A statement from London Irish later confirmed: "Joe broke a small bone at the top of his neck early in the game's second half. After An MRI scan, it was confirmed that immediate surgery was not required, and the injury would be managed by external fixation. He is in the care of the club's and hospitals medical team and is expected to return to the UK later this week."

Ansbro suffered the injury as he dived to the ground to secure the ball and his father insisted there was nothing malicious about the challenge. "Your blood runs cold when you hear about it and it's something that every parent worries about," he added. "It's a fantastic, rough game and these things, unfortunately, cannot be ruled out."

While London Irish have yet to set a date for Ansbro's return, Scotland team doctor James Robson expects him to resume playing in around three months - ruling him out of the November internationals.

"The management of the injury Joe has sustained typically involves a period of between six and eight weeks' immobilisation," Robson said. "After that there will be a further four to six weeks of rehabilitation before he can look at a return to the game. We wish Joe well in his recovery."

London Irish boss Brian Smith says he is hopeful Ansbro will make a full recovery. "It is early days and the most important thing is he has no problems with any functionality. He's 100% clear," Smith told BBC Berkshire.

"Joe is in really good spirits. He's got his head around what has happened," added Smith. "It is still too early to tell how significant the injury is as to whether he can play again this season or at all. A lot of people are very concerned when they hear it is a neck injury. He's got a stable neck and all the ligaments are intact.

"He's a very stoic bloke and he is in good spirits and is in very good care. University College Cork have been outstanding and he has one of Ireland's best neurosurgeons seeing him as a specialist.

"He'll be able to recover from it but it is far too early to say if he will play on. Worst-case scenario it will be a long time away from the game or not play at all. Best-case scenario Joe will make a full and speedy recovery and will be wearing a London Irish jersey in the near future."

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