Brian O’Driscoll is a former Irish rugby player, national team glory, with participation in four World Cups. also turned out a Leinster icon, team in which he started in 1998, was captain for several seasons and said goodbye in 2014, without having stopped wearing this jersey in 16 years. It is also, Member of the Hall of Fame of the sport since 2016 and today, at 43, he continues to be the top try scorer in Six Nations history. Due to his career, his achievements and the respect he has earned, he has become an example of how to survive with greatness the various changes that the game of oval ball has undergone in recent years. Yes He has just made a documentary focusing on retirement and mental health.
In an interview with the British newspaper Guardian, O’Driscoll dives into what his days are like today, from his visits to a psychiatrist to help him prepare for a life without rugby Until the anguished days when he worried about the onset of dementia after all the heavy hitting he had absorbed. With the ball in his hands, he was brilliant, he lit up with his courage. You want to keep this lucidity.
“My initial feeling when I left rugby was that I couldn’t get out fast enough because I knew I was in massive decline. But winning the Six Nations was a fairy tale ending. I was so relieved to come out unscathed, but also that my reputation is intact,” he recalled, adding, “People were looking for more and the good thing is the parties and the cute things. You get to next season and you think: “Well, playing international rugby is better than that.” That’s when retirement feels.”
This time the documentary was put on his shoulder, featuring his own experiences and interviews with an intriguing contrast of characters. From the former footballer and current manager Gareth Southgate to the jockey Anthony “AP” McCoy a legend of obstacle courses. The dialogues include those precautionary visits to a psychiatrist, his clear acknowledgment of the brain damage rugby can cause and the loss of his close friend Barry Twomey, who took his own life in 2008.
O’Driscoll saw a psychiatrist “three or four times” while still playing. “It made me feel bad, to embrace those times when you really wish you were outside. It made me realize that Ireland and Leinster were going to succeed, but there’s no way to get that feeling back. During your run, this glass is always half full. Even when you are in the doldrums you can return to this place, but not when you are retired. It helped me to know that it’s normal to feel loss and a bit of envy towards those who keep playing.” confessed to The Guardian.
“I don’t know if I could ever say I was depressed. It’s up to a doctor to describe it, but that’s also why I saw the doctor before quitting rugby. I wanted to get ahead of downside. Like everyone else, I get depressed sometimes, but my emotional state usually never fluctuates too much, either with elation or disappointment. It’s my makeup. But there are definitely times when you just do moving forward and the absence of a goal is a huge change,” he said, after thinking for several seconds.
BOD, as he is known in the rugby world, runs a production company called ‘3 Rock’, which made its latest documentary with BT Sports. “Nothing is the same as a rugby match. You’re just trying to convince yourself that you put on a good show. You think it was great, but really, it’s not rolling up your sleeves and beating England or winning a Grand Slam or coming back against Northampton in the Heineken Cup final in 2011. It’s not even close. “
And raw confessions are born. McCoy admits he misses ‘the agony and the torture’ of those races he has run and also suggests, with a dry smile, that “I’d rather be dead than see someone break my record of 20 consecutive championship jockey titles.” “I don’t know if it’s better or worse for him to have achieved what he’s done,” O’Driscoll said. “Does all his success make his end even more painful? AP is truly the extreme version of a great retired athlete. I was trying to suggest our common ground, but ended up saying that we are different beasts.
O’Driscoll joined Antoine Ogogo, an Olympic medal-winning boxer whose professional career was devastatingly cut short by an eye injury and explained how He ended up “crying on the kitchen floor, wanting to die”. It wasn’t until he lost his best friend to cancer in 2020 that Ogogo’s perspective changed. Even his life has moved away from the dramatic ups and downs of boxing.
More than half of retired professional athletes have mental health issues, but, according to O’Driscoll, only 40% of those affected will seek help. He points out that “finding a way to talk about the depression and the pain often helps”, although there is something odd: he does not appear to be talking about Twomey’s death in the documentary, although the topic has been discussed. “I spoke a bit about him to Jonny Bairstow [un jugador de críquet que tenía ocho años cuando su padre se quitó la vida] but it stayed between us in the editing room,” he said.
Yes, he confesses Guardian: “We had a level of friendship where we could talk about anything, but he never showed any depression or anxiety and so to this day it’s been a massive shock.” “We all know people who are important to us [en términos de su salud mental], but Barry was never on that radar. Even his girlfriend had no idea. Of all the people who might feel compelled to commit suicide, he was at the bottom of my list.”
The debate is much broader. “I was nervous at first after my retirement. When I noticed I was dropping my keys and banging on doors, I started convincing myself that there might be something wrong. I went there and did a lot of tests, but everything is fine,” he said. The alarms around are ringing all the time. Ryan Jones, The former Wales captain whom O’Driscoll often played against and also shared the Lions tour with in 2005, is the last player for whom I would fear ‘his world will fall apart’. However, Jones was recently diagnosed with dementia praecox, aged 41. “I pity him, a great sadness invades me. If you stop thinking about it, you’ll go crazy.” said.
“I know what the risks could have been [en sus tiempos de jugador], but would I change much in my career? No, I had a good time. Was there a time when I felt like I had a concussion and tried to walk off the pitch? You can’t see it like that. That’s not how you’re made. That’s why you have to take the decisions away from the players because at that time, you are not thinking rationally. You just want to be in there. I don’t sit at home in a dark room thinking about what I’ll be like at 60. It’s useless, ”he elaborated.
“They’re doing everything they can to reduce the dangers, but I don’t know how you change things. They’re going to have bouts of concussion for the next 150 years of the game if he survives that long. This is the nature of contact sport. If a son or daughter wants to play professional rugby, I wouldn’t stop them just because of the danger. The upside is so important that you need to understand the risk and the reward.” “The game has become more physical, due to professionalism and economic incentives. Since my retirement eight years ago, I see it more brutal”, he added.
“If you remove the clashes, it will not be rugby. The great responsibility of responders is to try to reduce the number of concussions and blows to the head. But there are going to be and that’s the reality, ”said Brian, who sometimes looks to the sporting present of his team, which has won five of the last eight meetings against the All Blacks. “The first time was in 2016 and it was bittersweet for me to see it. I was so close in 2013! Last November, I went to see it with my son, who is seven years old, and I really liked it. He went there for the first time. And said to me: “That’s great dad. Have you ever beaten the All Blacks?” I immediately thought of his next question.
“Would I feel the same bittersweet feelings if Ireland were world champions? I will be there. If it was my first World Cup, my God. But it will already be three by next year. I still have the right to say ‘oh, those lucky fuckers’, but I will be able to enjoy it much more than I would have the year after my retirement. It gets easier every time.”