“I thought to assist the doctors and their research, rather than players having to go into Sydney on a Saturday morning, the [researchers] could come to the players. That would make it far easier and get a greater number of ex-players.
“I’ve had a keen interest in what’s happened in the NFL and other things going on here in concussion. I’ve been in the game for so long since my first third-grade game in 1969, all of 50 years ago.
“There’s not a lot known about resultant damage that can come about from playing. You don’t have to be hit in the head to sustain damage to the brain. It’s also the shuddering halt you can get, particularly in the days when there was a shoulder charge. Players can be travelling at up to 30km an hour into each other, it’s a huge resultant collision. The more we know about it, the better off we’ll all be.”
At least half a dozen players from the Eels’ premiership-winning teams of the 1980s have pledged to donate their brains to the Brain Bank to further concussion research.
“Parramatta is supportive of the Blue and Gold Alliance facilitating research, but on this occasion we were only given 48 hours to review the proposal and consult with all the people attending,” an Eels spokesperson said.
“The club supported former players discussing concussion, and making pledges to the Brain Bank, during a recent trip to Darwin.
“The club is happy for BGA to facilitate research at their future gatherings.”
Three Sydney law firms have expressed their intention to launch a class action against the NRL over its handling of head injuries and concussion. As a result of research initiated by Dr Bennet Omalu – the first man to diagnose chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in American footballers – the NFL has already paid out more than $US500 million under the sport’s concussion settlement.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” Dr Omalu said of the mooted action against the NRL. “The legal system also has a role to play in protecting the truth. I will encourage players and their families to seek some recompense or compensation.
“You pretty much undermine your life by playing these games. You compromise your life expectancy, the quality of your life and your intellectual capacity, your cognitive capacity. Everything that makes you human.”
Adrian Proszenko is the Chief Rugby League Reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald.