AFL 2 years ago

Fans need to stop being ignorant on concussion

  • Fans need to stop being ignorant on concussion

    GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - JULY 02: Paddy McCartin of the saints during the round 15 AFL match between the Gold Coast Suns and the St Kilda Saints at Metricon Stadium on July 2, 2016 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Jason O'Brien/Getty Images)

I was in a taxi on the way to the airport on Saturday afternoon when I was watching the Brisbane Lions v Gold Coast Suns match with some mates on the way home from work, when we all witnessed Gold Coast defender Steven May lay out Brisbane ruckman Stefan Martin. 

My very first thought was that May would probably not see a football field for quite some time and that turned out to be the case, but the second thought I had was, after a heavy hit like that, is Martin going to wake up? That was 102kg of man, going at full tilt, as hard as he can, making contact with the head. 

Just think about that for a second and how heavy 102kg is. Think of 5 x 20kg at the gym and that being thrown at your face at full tilt and the damage it could do. 

Reflecting on my personal experience with concussions, they're not a nice thing to go through and even though I'm now 24 and my last concussion was when I was 18, I'm still feeling affects, and has effectively ended my football career, something I thoroughly enjoyed doing. 

I don't want to make this all about me, because it's not, but I just want to give you a run down on the lasting affects that I've had since the last knock I had, which left me unconscious for two and a half minutes and still leaving a blank as to what happened that day.

This particular incident was my seventh and final concussion.

My father will tell you the hell he went through having to see his son with his eyes rolling into the back of his head and something that he still wishes he never saw. 

The last thing that I remember was that I was attempting to pick up the ball in a contest, in front of goal, and the next thing I remember, I was in the change-rooms surrounded by paramedics and support staff. 

I've been told that an opposition player went to kick the ball off the ground and instead of kicking the football, kicked me in the side of the head. 

Lasting affects include a lot of things:
- Constant headaches/migranes
- Blurred vision
- Dizzyness
- Sharp pains
- Discomfort in all areas of the head.

It's something that I don't wish upon anyone.  

I was in a neck brace for a day, and later that week went to the doctors for a check-up where they advised me not to play football anymore. 

I said, "Doc, that's not happening. I'm playing football"

Her response put it right into perspective. "Well, if you take one more hit, no matter how big or small, you could receive permanent damage or worse case scenario, end up dead". 

But to read comments such as "it was a good hit", "Martin is soft" (yes I saw that multiple times) or "this game has gone soft" really hit a nerve with me. 

Let's cross codes. Phil Hughes. A story that touched almost every sporting Australian. A knock to the back of the head in the right spot cost him his life. What's to say that can't or won't happen in the AFL? We can't guarantee it, accident or not.

And that was that. 

Everyone reacts differently to concussion and some players, no matter what level may have been worse off than me, or some that have no lasting affects whatsoever.

People need to understand that severe hits to the head, much like May's on Martin can cause irreversible damage. Take former Swan and Blues champion Greg Williams who has suffered damage to his brain due to the number of concussions he had throughout his career. 

Unfortunately the way some people speak about the contest between May and Martin, is that it will take an AFL footballer to lose their life from a bump like this to realise this type of stuff needs to be outlawed immediately. 

I've got absolutely no problem with players contesting the ball and understand that accidents happen, but heavy bumps, flying elbows and the like deserve the full punishment. 

Thankfully, Stefan Martin looks to have recovered well and is likely to line up against the Bulldogs this weekend.

But that's another thing that bugs me. 

I respect all club doctors and their opinions, but I can't help but think that a week off after suffering a concussion, especially to the severity of Martin, will do the players a world of good. 

Hawthorn star midfielder Jordan Lewis suffered one of the more horrendous concussions we've seen in the last 15 years when he was merely contesting a ball with then Western Bulldogs defender Jarrod Harbrow.

Lewis admits that he should never have played the following week and admitted to feeling affects throughout the week leading up to the game after.

Can you imagine if Lewis copped another severe hit the following week, after admitting he was still feeling affects from the previous knock? What would have happened?

The AFL should be introducing a week off should a player suffer a concussion, allowing the brain the extra week and time to recover. A player and doctor can say they're fine, but giving them that extra week cannot hurt when there's far more important things in life than a game of football, and that's coming from someone like yours truly who absolutely lives and breathes AFL. 

But that's what I've come to realise after my concussions. 

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