Concussion – Heroes, Heroines and Villains!

by | Apr 19, 2021

I have numerous memories of fairly serious injuries coming from the sports I played as a youngster. I broke my nose twice – once batting in a cricket semi-final without wearing a helmet (silly boy!); once going up for a header in a football match against a good friend of mine in a training session. I remember that my face looked completely different (which my friends and teammates found hilarious) and the pain was pretty bad; however, I insisted on playing in the subsequent games (cup semi-final, football, and league title decider, cricket)- nobody would [or could] stop me.


Two days before a skiing trip with school, I tore my ankle ligaments after being ‘chopped’ by a player who subsequently became a professional footballer – he obviously learned how to tackle after this incident. Again, though, I insisted on going on the trip, despite the fact that my ankle had swollen up so much I couldn’t even get a ski on my foot. I spent the days in the bar drinking (I was 16 and it was legal in Spain!) – happy days!


The heartbreak I avoided is nothing compared to the disappointment and heartache that Chelsea Randall (pictured above) faced at the weekend as she was forced to miss the AFLW Grand Final due to concussion – and the Crows’ co-captain’s omission from the team has sparked and continued the heated debate around the 12 day concussion rule.


Four weeks earlier, Randall was forced to retire early against Collingwood (again through concussion) and moments after receiving the knock, she was desperate to get back on to the pitch to help her teammates to combat Collingwood’s comeback, alas Randall was prevented from doing so by match officials.


After impetuously trying to get back on the pitch a month ago, Randall accepted her fate in missing the Grand Final and wants to send a message regarding the severity of concussion to younger players.


Reacting to Randall’s injury [and somewhat stupidly], St. Kilda legend, Nick Riewoldt (pictured below), sparked controversy last week by suggesting that if he felt fit enough to play, then he would play, regardless of medical warnings and dangers.

“If I was in the same situation, imagine September still playing in your 30s, captain, all of those things. I’m taking it as far as I can take it. I’m going to the Supreme Court, I’m going for an injunction,” Riewoldt said on Fox Footy’s AFL 360.


Riewoldt’s sentiments remind me of my attitude as a youngster – alas, the difference is, I was sixteen at the time and my injuries were not concussion. I had a childish mentality, not considering the risks and dangers involved in continued participation.


Bombers’ legend, Matthew Lloyd condemned Riewoldt’s comments as ‘irresponsible’.

“He obviously doesn’t understand the severity of concussion. He’s saying I fully understand the severity of concussion yet I’m taking it to the Supreme Court,” he said on 3AW Football.


As heartbreaking and devastating as missing the Grand Final is, the effects of concussion later in life can be far more serious and medical guidelines are there for a very good reason. Riewoldt’s comments come from a place of pride and passion for the game; however, his comments sound like those of a child:


“I understand the severity of concussion and we heard Chelsea, but there’s a very clear parameter. If I feel okay to play I’m taking it as far as I possibly can to play.”


“It’s the arbitrary nature of 12 days that I think would provide the opportunity for a player to push the AFL.”


Another St. Kilda legend, Nicky Winmar, is reportedly suffering from structural and functional brain damage and is considering joining several other players in a class action against the AFL.

The severity of concussion and the need for it to be taken seriously by the AFL has been highlighted and acted upon in recent weeks. Many former AFL players are experiencing brain damage in many different ways, from violent mood swings and memory loss, to Alzheimer’s and Dementia.

Inevitably, Grand Finals create heroes, heroines and villains; however, the heroes and heroine from this conversation are Lloyd, Winmar and Randall, in respecting the rules and more importantly, respecting the brain. As for Nick Riewoldt – I wouldn’t condemn Riewoldt as a villain, however, he needs to reconsider his ‘childish heroic’ comments when it comes to concussion!  

Written by Chris Clegg