Conor Murray is not required to disclose nature of neck injury
Saying less about state of health set to become norm as players seek to protect careers
Munster scrumhalf Conor Murray’s last match was against Australia on June 23rd, almost exactly three months ago. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
The lack of disclosure about the nature of injuries to Irish rugby players will become more prevalent in a new era of athletes taking ownership of their information.
Saying less about their state of health will become the norm in the future as top Irish players seek to protect their careers and retirement strategies by withholding details of their injuries.
Murray is following the pattern adopted by former Ireland captain Jamie Heaslip, who was forced to retire with a back injury. Heaslip maintained that his medical information was his alone and not for public consumption.
The IRFU said on Monday they do not have a position on the matter and that it is up to each individual to decide on what goes into the public domain or stays private.
Munster coach Johann van Graan has been true to Murray’s request for silence. Precious little has emerged on his playmaker’s fitness to engage in the opening two rounds of the Heineken Cup next month or in any of the matches in the November international window.
“Your vital data is your data. If you want to share it, it is up to you,” said an IRFU spokesman. “The fact is that medical data has been used as sharable information. It has got to the point where it is quite a prevalent part of the narrative during the week.
“A lot of senior players are pushing back on it because it has impacted on them in terms of their next contract, whether they are negotiating or not. It’s their data. We will try and manage that as best we can. But if they do not want to share anything there is nothing we can do about that. It’s not public property.”
Murray’s last match was against Australia on June 23rd, almost exactly three months ago. In August the injury was described as “short term” despite Munster signing former All Black scrumhalf Alby Mathewson on a four-month deal.
The downside of exercising his right is that Munster and Murray have created a vacuum, which is being enthusiastically filled with largely baseless speculation, some of it potentially hurtful to the player.
In the social media world, where any rag and bone opinion can be aired, Munster radio silence on a pet subject like Murray’s fitness invites speculation.
Any idea of Murray taking charge of his absolute right to privacy by not giving out information and expecting respect back is no longer the way the equation is balanced. In a less forgiving and less caring environment there are consequences for saying nothing.
Heaslip suffered a similar experience and last season confirmed that inaccurate and damaging things were said about his back injury, some of them “blatant lies”.
Murray is now living in that surreal space where the less he says the more other people talk, where guess work and innuendo replace facts, where Chinese whispers gather pace and become real cyber world currency. It’s a bull market for BS.
“We have a process in national camp where we speak to a medic. Get an update on what’s going on. He talks to a player in terms of what they are comfortable with putting out about themselves and we put it out,” said the IRFU spokesman.
“I think the players are being advised by their own personal management to be more conscious of that. If you put your CV out there, you want your medical history to be nice and clean as an athlete. I think we will see more of that.
“It won’t be easy. But it’s a balancing act. We can’t go from everything to nothing. You will see a gradual move down to less specific information. That’s just where we are going. It is player driven. We [IRFU] don’t have a position.”
Heaslip said that players have to know what their rights are and they have to learn where to draw the line in terms of what they decide to disclose and what to hold private.
The harder question is what is the best worst option. Does Murray not saying anything actually control the information or does he allow others, who know nothing about it, set an alternative narrative.
“If you are retiring because of an injury . . . depending on your age profile, your injury profile, your potential earnings, that has a massive knock-on effect. Your last pay packet comes in and then you are on zip,” said the IRFU spokesman. Murray is not retiring.
On Monday Jerry Flannery was asked about the scrumhalf and the Heineken Cup. “I don’t know yet, it is a bit early,” said Flannery. And that’s a fact.