Former Australian rugby league team doctor Nathan Gibbs has warned Brisbane Broncos captain Darren Lockyer he could be risking his eyesight by playing with a fractured cheekbone.
Lockyer has vowed to lead the Broncos’ charge to the NRL grand final, despite medical experts warning he is risking his eyesight.
The retiring captain needed three titanium plates inserted in his left cheekbone after clashing with teammate Gerard Beale during Saturday night’s thrilling win over St George Illawarra.
In a text message to his fans sent from his hospital bed on Sunday night, Lockyer declared he was confident he could recover from surgery on his fractured cheekbone in just five days.
“At this stage I will play on Friday,” Lockyer revealed.
“The plates they have put in will be enough to keep the cheek strong enough to play.”
But former Australian Rugby League doctor Gibbs warned Lockyer would risk permanent damage by playing hurt.
“He is risking his eyesight by playing before his cheekbone is healed,” he said.
“His face will not be close to healed in a week.
“It’s a question of risk. His face will not be close to healed in a week. It’s a preliminary final match, and they will have to decide if the risk of further damage is worth it.”
Brisbane Broncos are taking a wait-and-see approach with the recovery of Lockyer, who was released from hospital on Sunday night.
The NRL’s chief medical officer Ron Muratore said it was putting unfair pressure on Lockyer to let him decide if he takes the field in Friday night’s grand final qualifier against Manly.
Dr Gibbs said there was special headgear now available that had cheek protection like that worn by an amateur boxer.
Swans player Ben McGlynn wore it during a 2010 finals match after he suffered a fractured cheekbone.
“Ben had a horrific fracture and had surgery,” Dr Gibbs said. “The advice was he should not play for six to eight weeks but he came back after four.”
Former Sydney Swans AFL player Leo Barry played the entire 2005 finals series, including their grand final win, with a fractured cheekbone.
“The difference is that no one knew Leo’s cheek was fractured,” Dr Gibbs said.
“Everyone knows about Lockyer’s injury and he may be targeted. It wasn’t safe to let Leo play and it won’t be safe to let Darren play. We told Leo his eyesight was at risk and he decided to still play. That’s the decision Darren has to make now.
“Darren is obviously very tough and he will play through the pain, it’s just whether he wants to weigh up further damage.”
A win will put the Broncos into their first grand final since 2006, and give Lockyer a shot at a fairytale farewell to the NRL.
Buford Balony says: He’ll play because everyone knows the Broncos can’t win without Lockyer.