Concussions in sport: I stopped gambling after sustaining head knocks

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I turned into sixty-three not out and batting superbly, flaying Weston Creek fifths throughout Rivett Oval. Cut photographs pull shots, strong heaves down metropolis. I became 16 years antique and actually on the way to 100. And then they introduced on the Angel. He became pretty a piece quicker than his pals.

The Angel (acknowledged so for his surname) bowled a half-tracker that I shaped to hook. There accompanied a meaty “thock” now not of leather-based on willow but as an alternative Kookaburra six-stitcher connecting flush with right temporal bone. And, helmet-unfastened, down onto the artificial wicket I went.

I was given up pretty quickly, although, dazed extra than injured – a piece of a sore head, however, I knew what turned into going on. I notion I may want to have saved on batting however umpires and captains advised I retire harm, so off I toddled. I pulled off my gloves, sat on a bench and heard the chirp of bird tune that began playing in my head. I sang along side it at the same time as metal spit crammed my mouth. And that becomes my final reminiscence until I woke in the clinic the following day.

 

I’d had a seizure. Went all blue and pink, thrashed about. My terrible old crew-associates were in all kinds. They bundled me into a V8 Commodore and sped up Hindmarsh Drive to hospital, pouring water on me, cradling my neck, doing their great as properly people do.

Twenty years later, another one. I was punched by a under the influence of alcohol, difficult, on the top of the pinnacle. More stunned than concussed, I become in a position to walk domestic, in which I sat on the couch and had a seizure looking TV. I woke up surrounded through police and ambos, concerned flatmates. And it becomes up to the hospital again.

After every week of MRIs and scans, a doctor pointed to a few anomalies on a brain wave chart, and stated: “Epilepsy.” A form of it, besides. The medical doctor reported he wouldn’t have acknowledged in which to look if I hadn’t stated the cricket incident. It had lai,n dormant. It had taken those knocks to bring it on. They’re the most effective seizures I’ve had, but it’s safe to mention I haven’t performed rugby or cricket or placed my head close to whatever rapid and painful, ever for the reason that.

James Graham has and will. The St George Illawarra Dragons front-rower and England worldwide says the thrill of rugby league overrides the danger of brain harm. He argues that humans over-indulge in alcohol and tobacco notwithstanding knowing the risks. He says his grandma has dementia even though she in no way played rugby league. He’s researched matters, conducted checks upon himself. And he says: “What are you purported to do? Stop playing?”

Well, maybe.

The eighth Immortal of rugby league, Andrew Johns, found out the volume of his epilepsy in a fine and uncooked interview along with his brother Matthew on Monday night time. Another Immortal, Wally Lewis, told a similar tale in separate interviews with Fairfax and News Corp, describing his seizures, his empathy with Johns and his choice to play the game he loved in spite of the brain-fog of physical war.

Neither man blames rugby league for his or her situation. Neither man could definitively say – due to the fact specialists can’t both – that the head injuries they suffered at the soccer field exacerbated or otherwise introduced on their epilepsy. They may additionally have nevertheless had epilepsy if they’d been live performance pianists.

Yet as Melbourne neurologist Mark Cook declared in Fairfax’s Good Weekend: “Even via moderate mind accidents, the hazard [of developing epilepsy] is as a minimum doubled.”

Former player Ian Roberts says he can “surely empathise” with Johns and Lewis after their diagnoses. Roberts become told he had “irreversible mind harm” early in 2014. He says he’s saddened however now not amazed by way of Johns’s revelation.

“To be quite actually informed you have some type of mind damage is a shock,” says Roberts. “And I use the term ‘mind damage’ on purpose. When human beings speak approximately a ‘head knock’ it someway makes it form of OK. But it’s far brain damage. And it’s going to take these excessive-profile cases for the subject to get the air time.”

Roberts factors to a 50-man Deakin University take a look at that he changed into part of that checked out the consequences of concussion. There were 25 footballers and 25 guys of a comparable age who hadn’t performed touch game. They were studied, tested and scanned. And every one of the gamers was wonderful for some shape of mind harm, in keeping with Roberts. “Of the 25 guys within the manipulate group, most effective 3 got here again wonderful.”

Nevertheless, Roberts says he understands and respects Graham’s opinion. “I hear what he’s saying. He’s speaking approximately his very own state of affairs. And it’s best for him to have his angle, his opinion. I’m now not speaking right down to him – it’s first-class that he doesn’t thoughts risking his intellectual health to play a game that he loves. But I’d say no longer everybody feels the equal manner.”

Roberts is of the same opinion with Graham: it’s anybody’s choice whether to play contact recreation. “But no longer anybody is aware of all of the statistics,” he says. “People need to be privy to the potential for brain injury in contact recreation. We’re encouraging children to play sport and that’s amazing. But if they’re touch sports activities, it’s approximately making dad and mom privy to the dangers.

“It’s not about wrapping kids in cotton wool. It’s approximately putting the records obtainable and letting humans make an informed choice. A lot of humans don’t have the statistics. There are preventative measures.”

On Tuesday morning, before I’d written any of this, my wife sent me a textual content with a hyperlink to an editorial approximately Johns and the question: “Should our boys clearly be playing these head sports activities?”

I nonetheless haven’t written lower back. I’m not certain of the solution.

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