‘You might not know who you are in 20 years’: NRL players told to stop hiding concussion

One of the NRL’s leading club doctors fears NRL players hiding their concussion symptoms is far more widespread than anyone thinks, while a leading concussion expert has warned without a cultural shift players “won’t know who they are in 20 years”.

In the same week an NRL player poll conducted by the Sydney Morning Herald showed 73 per cent of respondents said they believe some players disguise brain injury symptoms to stay on or return to the field, the NRL has been urged to renew focus on cultural education rather than medical tuition.

Medical professionals attached to the game say underreporting of concussion among players is potentially widespread.Credit:Getty

He said the 73 per cent of players who thought some players were disguising headaches and other indicators was a number even larger than he could have predicted.

“That definitely suggests there is a cultural issue at play,” Professor Pearce said. “We haven’t really been focusing on changing the culture, we’ve been focusing on the rules, the policies … it’s the stick, but not the carrot.

“It’s not this pseudo-militaristic, hyper-masculine attitude to run through walls. This is your brain. Twenty years down the track after an ACL injury you might get some rheumatoid arthritis. That’s not great.

“But 20 years down the track with brain injuries, you might not even know who you are.

“We’ve got to put this in context here. There has got to be some cultural awareness education rather than just medical education around the injury to players.”

The NRL introduced a 11-day stand down period for players diagnosed with a concussion this year, but they are able to return to the field inside that timeframe with clearance from a concussion specialist.

Cordner’s NSW teammate Nathan Cleary said the Rooster’s emotional retirement announcement “almost brought a tear to my eye” as he acknowledged all NRL players know the risk that comes with the game.

Cleary missed a match earlier this year after being felled by a high tackle from former teammate Dallin Watene-Zelezniak.

“Rugby league has been around for a long time and so has concussion,” Cleary said. “It’s a sad thing to happen. Boydo is one of the toughest guys I’ve seen play and it’s sad his career got cut short from it. I think it’s something all rugby league players know comes with the territory.”

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