DYLAN HARTLEY INTERVIEW: After learning he has a traumatic brain injury from playing, the former England captain is battling to solve a looming crisis in rugby

DYLAN HARTLEY INTERVIEW: After learning he has a traumatic brain injury from playing, the former England captain is battling to solve a looming crisis in rugby

It’s early morning in Marseille’s previous port the place the trawlermen are unloading their catch for the day. The odor of purple mullet, bream and grouper fills the air as restaurateurs buzz across the harbour, selecting out one of the best fish for the weekend’s bouillabaisse.

Dylan Hartley is the final individual you’ll anticipate to stumble upon however there he’s, standing in entrance of the boats, taking a selfie with a few kilted Scotland followers. ‘Not a nasty spot, is it?’ he shouts out, catching eyes throughout the market stalls.

The final time we met was in October, out in Dubai. He had simply been for a mind scan – the primary of his life – and was nervously ready for the outcomes. We agreed to do a follow-up article within the coming weeks however there was radio silence. I feared the worst.

‘Let’s speak,’ he says, 11 months on, agreeing to satisfy a few days later. We reconvene at a resort within the previous city and discover a quiet desk within the shade. It’s the morning after England’s victory over Argentina.

‘I acquired my outcomes and I didn’t actually wish to speak about it,’ he explains, gulping a big bottle of water within the 30C warmth. ‘I used to be coming to phrases with my mind not being as wholesome as I wished it to be. Sorry, I didn’t imply to clean you, it’s simply the extra you speak about it the extra actual it’s. Speaking about it was fairly arduous however it was all a part of the method of coping with it.’

Former England captain Dylan Hartley was recognized with a traumatic mind harm in 2022

The ex-player decided to undergo a brain scan after noticing a number of changes to his behaviour and responses

The ex-player determined to bear a mind scan after noticing a lot of adjustments to his behaviour and responses

A scan of Hartley's brain (pictured) revealed that parts of his brain had 'gone to sleep' with repetitive blows to the head

A scan of Hartley’s mind (pictured) revealed that components of his mind had ‘gone to sleep’ with repetitive blows to the pinnacle

Taking his telephone out from his pocket, he reveals a sequence of scans of his mind. Perfusion scans chopping via the skull, 3D fashions and cross sections of white matter. All strange colors that inform the story of a rugby participant whose head was thrown round like a crash-test dummy.

‘I by no means wished to get a scan as a result of I didn’t wish to know the reality. I’d began to stutter and blend my phrases, dropping issues and struggling when my youngsters made sure noises. I used to be confronting the monster beneath the mattress, in a manner. I did an MRI scan and a SPECT scan. The SPECT scan is the place they inject low-level radiation into your physique and see how your mind is firing.

‘There have been indicators that my head had been via a reasonably robust time. I used to be principally recognized with post-concussion syndrome. It was an enormous second. The time period “concussion” virtually lessens the blow and I believe individuals ought to in all probability change the language. It’s traumatic mind harm.

‘I don’t wish to say I had areas of mind that had been useless, however they had been asleep. They had been dormant. The toughest factor in life is normally the precise factor to do. The simple factor is to disregard issues. I took the arduous path, went and acquired the scan and I’m so pleased I did.’

The previous caught up with him, though the followers who cease by to ask his opinions on England’s victory over Argentina would do not know that he’s residing with mind injury. He stays sharp and quick-witted, a grasp at working the room as he dashes throughout the terrace to introduce himself to Roc Nation boss Michael Yormark.

As a participant, Hartley’s tongue usually acquired him in hassle but each coach chosen him as captain. He was a options man, an issue solver. So it’s little shock that he instantly embarked upon a mission to discover a repair, signing as much as a three-month course of hyperbaric oxygen remedy.

‘You see the tales of men seven or eight years older than me; your Carl Haymans and Steve Thompsons. Seeing them come out with their tales instils a deep-rooted concern that it’s going to occur to me. Stepping into and accepting to get your mind scanned, seeing the fact of 20 years {of professional} rugby, that’s fairly scary.

‘It was a reasonably down-in-the-dumps dialog with the professor however he advised me we will repair it. Put me again collectively like Humpty Dumpty. Clearly you’re a bit sceptical as a result of it’s not like placing a forged on a damaged arm however the confidence and conviction he gave me was nice. He advised me the realities of my scenario however supplied the instruments to get higher. It’s a bit like Eddie Jones telling me I used to be fats however then offering an answer.

‘As soon as I’d had that day of realisation that my mind wasn’t functioning completely, coming to phrases with that, it was like all form of ban or harm whenever you get up the subsequent day with some targets and crack on with life. I’m doing all the things I can to verify I’m round and current to be the absolute best me for my youngsters in 5 to 10 years’ time. I acquired into this programme, stopped consuming fully and attended the Aviv Clinics in Dubai two hours a day for 3 months straight.’

Hartley heard from his former England team-mate Ellis Genge, who has friends struggling

Hartley heard from his former England team-mate Ellis Genge, who has buddies struggling

Stating the areas on his mind scans that turned from blue to purple after therapy, he continues: ‘You go right into a chamber which is eight metres lengthy and a few metres huge. There are stroke sufferers and children with autism in there. You placed on a masks, your ears pop and also you breathe 100 per cent oxygen that will get to locations it will possibly’t usually get to. You may see the areas of my mind which might be getting extra blood circulation which suggests I’m sharper.

‘You do a sequence of mind coaching workout routines and my scores in these strange assessments went via the roof. Reminiscence, coordination, articulation, cognitive endurance… all these issues improved considerably. I had the identical scans submit therapy and the information reveals elevated blood circulation to components of my mind. It may not work for everybody however it labored for me. Ellis Genge messaged me about it as a result of he’s acquired a few mates who’re struggling. The one motive I’m speaking about it now’s as a result of I need individuals to see it and use it.’

Now Hartley lives a distinct life, however he nonetheless loves the sport deeply – often glancing over to the TV to see the rating of Japan versus Chile. For the second-half, when the microphone is off, he orders a steak tartare – leaving the chips – and lives out each second of the match. ‘The sport’s brutal, which is a part of what makes it entertaining. You may’t change the character of the sport they usually’re clamping down on head contact, which is the suitable factor to do. You noticed what occurred with Tom Curry in opposition to Argentina. I wouldn’t say there was intent, it’s simply rugby, that occurs – and by the regulation it was a purple card. All I’m going off is any head contact is a straight purple. Whether or not it’s reckless, malicious, intent.

‘Are groups getting ready for it now? Joe Marchant and Manu (Tuilagi) had a go at flanker. Groups have gotten to adapt. They’d fairly good preparation with 14 males over, didn’t they? That depth was virtually a discovered depth. It’s an incredible squad. You watch England now, you watch ’em…’

Hartley can be right here for the subsequent few weeks. All of rugby’s powerbrokers have descended on France and Hartley has already approached one governing physique – refusing to call which one – however his phrases fell on deaf ears. ‘I’ve shared it with a few governing our bodies. There’s massive authorized motion that’s happening in opposition to the sport. There are two events – the rugby individuals over there and the individuals suing the sport. I’m within the center pondering, “Dangle on, let’s search options slightly than monetary remuneration”. I’m within the center saying let’s use issues like hyperbaric remedy. Even when we may also help one per cent of the individuals struggling, that’s a life improved.

‘I gained’t point out which governing our bodies however there’s solely actually one… they had been fairly cagey, fairly defensive. They had been fairly guarded, asking for scientific papers to show that this treatment issues. It was, “We’re very pleased for you Dylan”.

‘There are 400 individuals suing one union in the intervening time. Why don’t you present an answer and discover a method to fund it?’

Tom Curry picked up a head injury in England's tie against Argentina before receiving a yellow card - that was later upgraded to a red

Tom Curry picked up a head harm in England’s tie in opposition to Argentina earlier than receiving a yellow card – that was later upgraded to a purple

Hartley's former coach Eddie Jones warned that the sport was becoming a 'power contest'

Hartley’s former coach Eddie Jones warned that the game was turning into a ‘energy contest’

As issues stand, Hartley is on a one-man campaign. As I head off to report on the South Africa versus Scotland sport, Hartley has no intentions to maneuver for the night, content material watching it by himself.

‘Individuals ask, “Why aren’t you on the sport doing TV?” You’ve acquired your iconic guys like Jonny Wilkinson and Sir Clive Woodward doing TV. My legacy in rugby wasn’t that spectacular. I used to be lucky to play for England and captain the facet however I don’t sit at that stage of iconic rugby gamers. I’m simply out right here hustling, doing my work.

‘Everybody goes to the sport, has a good time, will get boozed up on vacation and leaves. In case you go right into a altering room after a match you see a man along with his fingers spherical his knee pondering he’s acquired a nine-month knee reconstruction.

‘You see Tom Curry smiling after the Argentina sport however he’s acquired 16 stitches. If that’s a traditional civilian they’d be in hospital. If I can create any form of legacy the place I may also help guys with concussion, that’s way more necessary to me.’

‘Components of his mind that had been asleep are actually waking up’ 

By James Sharpe 

A health care provider who helped deal with former England captain Dylan Hartley stated components of his mind had ‘gone to sleep’ as a result of repetitive blows to the pinnacle throughout his rugby profession. 

‘Consider the pinnacle like a sizzling water bottle,’ says Dr Umair Qureshi, guide at Aviv Clinics Dubai, the place Hartley has undergone therapy. 

‘The water can transfer round inside however the rubber bottle goes nowhere. That’s the identical because the mind contained in the cranium. While you bang your head, the mind strikes round. Hold knocking it and it’ll frequently transfer forwards and backwards and get broken by the construction that’s meant to carry it in place. 

‘While you injury mind tissue, it’s not as lively because it was. It’s virtually like that a part of the mind has gone to sleep. If it goes to sleep, it doesn’t require as a lot “gasoline” to perform, therefore, the physique sends much less blood to that space and in the end, much less oxygen. The extra blood it sends, the extra oxygen it sends.’

 This, says Qureshi, is what occurred to components of Hartley’s mind throughout his rugby profession. 

‘Sure areas of his mind haven’t being getting sufficient blood and oxygen. When that occurs, the mind doesn’t work in addition to it ought to. 

‘We are able to see that on his mind scans. You wish to see extra white and purple areas, which present good blood circulation, and fewer blue and black. You additionally wish to see symmetry between the left and proper sides of the mind. 

‘In case you have a look at Dylan’s mind earlier than therapy, you may see there’s extra blue on the left facet and extra white and purple on the precise. The shortage of symmetry additionally suggests abnormality.’ 

Dr Qureshi claims you may see enhancements in his scans after his hyperbaric oxygen remedy therapy. 

‘There’s extra white and purple areas and the 2 sides look extra symmetrical. His reminiscence has improved, so too his means to multitask and his consideration span. These components of his mind that had been asleep have began to get up.’

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