Wests Tigers forward Liam Fulton says he’s been knocked out so many times during his career there’s little he can do now about any long-term side effects.
In a frank and revealing insight into the mindset of NRL players, Fulton has detailed how his wife was crying in the dressing sheds when he was stretchered off in the Tigers’ round-one loss to St George Illawarra.
Fulton said he’d read the media coverage about concussion in the past two weeks, including former Test forward Ian Roberts’ account about the brain damage he’d suffered from playing rugby league.
But the 29-year-old veteran admitted the horror stories did nothing to stop him wanting to back up and play on Sunday against the Gold Coast.
The Tigers medical staff intervened and ruled him out, but Fulton said he’d been conditioned to put concussion to one side because it was part of what he was paid to do.
“Oh mate, I’ve been knocked out that many times that I’m probably beyond it, to be honest,” Fulton said.
“I’ve been knocked out over 10 times. If I’m going to get dementia I’m going to get it … What can I do about it?
“To be honest, I saw the articles and read them all and I still wanted to play.
“You get paid well and I think everyone knows there are head knocks involved. If you don’t want to cop a head knock, you don’t play, really.”
Of the eight players treated by the new concussion rules in round one, Fulton’s incident was by far the worst.
He was knocked cold for several minutes after colliding with a Dragons player.
Fulton described the extent of his short-term memory loss and the fear of his wife.
“My missus was tearing up in the sheds seeing me in a neck brace and on a stretcher, but I don’t even remember her being in there, to be honest,” he said.
“I still remember when I got home and saw on the news. I didn’t even know that I got stretchered off. I went, ‘Oh, that’s right, I got stretchered off’. It was pretty bad but this is what we do for a living and head knocks are going to happen.”
Fulton says such a mindset makes it imperative that decisions on returning to the field are made by doctors, not athletes.
“When you’re knocked out you’re not thinking straight, so you just do what you’re told,” he said.
“I really wanted to play but if you’re told you can’t play, you can’t play.”