Ricky Holmes has revealed he was forced to to bide his time in his recovery from his latest concussion to avoid a potentially life-threatening brain injury.
The Pompey winger was knocked unconscious in the New Year’s Day defeat at his hometown club Southend.
Although he was back out on the pitch soon afterwards, he then made the decision himself to come off after suffering from dizziness and blurred vision.
Many players who suffer a head impact are bandaged up or sent back out after a quick sniff of smelling salts.
But Holmes was ruled out for nearly a month after knowing all too well he had another bout of concussion.
And he should know – it was the sixth time in his career that it had happened to him.
It certainly wasn’t going to be a case of a quick return.
Holmes had to abort two training comebacks after feeling unwell.
Now he has thankfully made a full recovery and has been back in action for several weeks with no ill-effects.
But it’s no surprise his return took longer than expected, after he was warned of some of the serious risks if he picked up another head injury soon in quick succession.
Holmes explained: ‘I remember the incident, which is surprising because it was my sixth concussion of my career.
‘But I’ve looked back at the DVD and it’s clear I was knocked out at Southend, even if it was for only a few seconds.
‘I went for the header, the guy hit me and I was motionless on the floor.
‘I was pretty dazed afterwards. But luckily I knew what had happened and I knew I had to come off.
‘As soon as I had the knock, I said to the physio “I’ve got concussion” although he wasn’t as sure as I was.
‘But I’ve had it so many times. I had blurred vision and I know the signs.
‘There was a bit of panic about it this time though.
‘I remember the whack and I remember going to hospital but then I went home to my place in Southend afterwards.
‘But then it really came on and I was being sick and everything.
‘I only got back into training two weeks later but I started running and I was getting dizzy again.
‘Then I came back again but as soon as my heart rate went up, I started getting dizzy again.
‘You can’t mess around with a head injury.
‘I’ve been told that if you get a double concussion in the space of a month, it can potentially cause some really serious problems like a brain haemorrhage.
‘It was a worrying time for me. I thought it would never end.
‘But the neurology just switched back on again after a while.
‘I had a brain scan, had all the proper things and there was nothing there so they eased me back into it and thankfully, it’s been fine since.’
While there were a few concerns that there was something more serious affecting the former Barnet man during his absence, it perhaps underlines how a concussion is often treated less seriously than a more typical football injury.
The issues of player safety and head injuries were raised earlier this season when Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was knocked unconscious at Everton and then refused to be substituted, insisting that he carried on playing.
But Holmes has followed medical advice to the letter and has even erred on the side of caution himself, fighting his natural instinct of wanting to return to action as quickly as possible.
He said: ‘It was strange because I was coming back to training and feeling fine.
‘But as soon as I went out there, the ball was rolling under my foot, I was getting double vision again and I knew I still wasn’t right.
‘You have to be a bit more careful sometimes and listen to the experts.
‘Once I had that scan and got the all clear, it’s when I looked at it as though I could just crack on again.’
But Holmes also recalled how the experts can get it wrong after being released from hospital following a previous concussion during his time at Barnet.
He said: ‘The last time it happened, I was in hospital and lost my speech for a while.
‘They were releasing me from hospital and I was then trying to get into my friend’s car by opening the petrol cap –that’s how bad it was!
‘Apparently I was there saying “let me in lads” because the door wouldn’t open when I was lifting the petrol cap.
‘They thought it was probably best to take me back in and say I wasn’t quite right.
‘I was in a bit of a bad way for a while.
‘This time wasn’t as bad thankfully.
‘Before I came back, I had to head the ball a few times before I got back out into training and thought “let’s just get on and do it”. It’s been fine since.
‘You’ve got to forget about it. It’s like any other injury – once it heals, you have to forget it ever happened or you will not play to your full potential.
‘Hopefully, it won’t occur again.’
After his recovery, Holmes’ mind is now focused on the televised trip to promotion-chasing Chesterfield tonight.
He said: ‘I think Chesterfield are the best side in the league.
‘When we played them down here, they looked a very good side.
‘They are a footballing team, they have got a great home record.
‘But we’ve got to be resilient when we go there.’