Cronulla veteran Wade Graham has opened up about the impact concussion may have on him post-career, admitting “there’s a tax to pay” when playing rugby league.
The 31-year-old has suffered multiple concussions in recent years, and last year the issue ended his season prematurely. He receieved his fourth head knock of the season in a Round 14 game against Penrith, and sat out the rest of the year.
He returned to the field in yesterday’s pre-season trial against Canterbury, only to suffer a syndesmosis injury which will now sideline him for seven weeks.
“A little bit disappointed and frustrated, but it is what it is,” Graham told 9News of the ankle injury.
Sharks skipper Wade Graham suffers another head knock
“It’s the nature of the beast.”
But ankle injuries are one thing, and concussions are an entirely different beast.
In the past year they’ve ended the careers of Roosters stalwarts Boyd Cordner and Jake Friend. In cricket, young Victorian batter Will Pucovski is fighting an ongoing battle with concussion which threatens to end his Test career before it’s really begun.
Concussions are fairly rare in cricket, but frighteningly common on a rugby league field.
Only now is the game – and contact sport worldwide – truly realising the long-term impact concussion can have on athletes. It’s the reason players like Cordner and Friend choose to walk away from the game prematurely, to give themselves a fighting chance later in life.
Graham is no dummy. He accepts the dangers that come with playing the sport he loves.
“No one who plays this game, physically leaves the game the same,” he said.
“Whether it be knees, shoulders, ankles, head – there’s a tax to pay in the game, rugby league.”
Graham plotting return after concussion horrors
Graham has, naturally, discussed the issue with his wife. They’ve started to plan for life after football.
“Those chats are definitely there. I’ve had chats with my family, my partner, about the next stage in life.
“Even if I didn’t have the concussions I’d be having those discussions anyway, because I am coming to the back end of my career.”
Graham used last year’s concussion-enforced layoff to educate himself on why it kept happening to him.
He’s worked hard to change his tackling technique in order to minimise the risk of further concussions.
“Mostly talking about tackle selection and decision making,” he said.
“The tackle I was making, where I was putting my head… just trying to limit the risk of putting my head in the wrong spots.”
With this fresh injury, Graham isn’t expected to be seen in the NRL until Round 5 at the earliest.
For a daily dose of the best of the breaking news and exclusive content from Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter by clicking here!