My brother Kieren’s Confronting head knock: concussion research hits home

It was easy for me to preach patience because I no longer live in that football bubble. But for those in it, football is their job, and their passion, and they want to be on the field. Staying on the sidelines because of something they can’t see can feel like an overreaction. And then there is the uncertainty; it’s not like a hamstring injury where you have to reach a certain strength mark or level of flexibility to get back on the park.

I say all this in light of Thursday’s announcement by Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Neuropathology confirming that two deceased rugby league players had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. This is a disease associated with repeated knocks to the head and carries serious ramifications, such as depression and memory loss, that can ruin lives.

In sports, playing through injury is a badge of honour. The respected warriors earn their stripes by limping over the line when expected to sit. We remember the game that so and so played with broken ribs, and speak in awe of the basketball player who limped back up the tunnel to take his free throws after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament. I’ve even seen kids in junior sports ask to tape up their heads to imitate their favourite players, wishing that they could have claret dripping from their brow. When I was young, I would’ve welcomed a stray elbow to the head just so I could get stitches above my eye like my idols.

Injuries are a part of sport, there’s no way around it. Courageously throwing your body around creates the highlights that will be etched on your footy tombstone. But the result is many footballers get to the end of their career with a body a shell of its former self. More often than not I can tell a former footballer just by his stilted walk, which tells the story of pre-season after pre-season of pushing his body to its limits. Most players are happy with this exchange. They get to live their dreams. They do as much physical preparation as they can to combat the stresses their body will be placed under during their career.


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