What will my memory be like in 10 years’ time?

I like many others decided to watch the Greg Williams interview on the Channel 7 show ‘Sunday Night’ on Sunday night to hear of Greg’s quite concerning increased memory loss over the years that has been caused possibly by the number of concussions Greg had during his career as an AFL footballer. As I saw him having great difficulties remembering basic but important things like his children’s middle names, his wedding day and other significant events in his life I started to get worried. This worry increased when hearing Greg being interviewed on SEN the following day and him suggesting that even though AFL players need to be worried about degenerative brain disease as a result of concussions at least they have excellent medical help unlike the players in the amateur and country football leagues.

The reason that I am now starting to get worried is because I am one of those amateur football players who has been concussed on numerous occasions. What is my likelihood of ending up with a degenerative brain disease because of what occurred whilst I played football?

For a majority of my football career I played for the mighty Adelaide Lutheran Football club better known as ‘The Doggies’ in the South Australian Amateur Football League. I do not know the exact number of times I had concussion but it would definitely be over ten with at least 3 of those being major concussion where ‘the lights went out completely’ for a substantial period of time and headaches occurred for some days after. There was a time where I got concussed so often that some of my team mates called me ‘Con’ short for concussion.

I never really thought that this could have a detrimental effect until the last couple of years and I am even more worried now after seeing the interview with Greg. Sometimes being concussed was like a badge of honour as it generally occurred when going in hard for the ball or doing some type of courageous act. Even now when we see footballers do this type of thing we admire the courage they show and commend them for putting their body on the line for their team. Maybe we should actually be condoning football players for doing this as they run the risk of being concussed and possibly doing irreversible damage to their brains.

When I was playing we had good head trainers who would always check to see if someone was concussed, if the showed signs for it especially when a head clash had occurred. Quite often when this happened to me the head trainer would suggest that I did not play the next week or two, but come Tuesday night when I was back out on the training track and feeling good or even half good I would tell (or sometimes lie) to the coach that I would be okay to play the next week. I do remember doing one of those concussion/ memory test as part of the pre session to help determine whether I would be okay to play the next week if I did get concussed during the season, but I can remember deliberately making some mistakes or doing it more slowly at pre-season time so that my result were lower than what they should really be. That way I would have more chance of passing the test if I needed to during the season. How stupid was that, now?

One thing that is causing me to worry a little is that I do believe that my memory is not as good as what is was last year or 5 years ago. I do have trouble remembering some things, whilst other things I cannot remember at all. Is this a result of what happen during my footy career or is this just a result of getting older?

After watching Greg on Sunday night I hope that I do not end up with a degenerative brain disease because of the number and severity of concussions I had whilst playing football. I would hate to get to the stage where I can’t remember my kids middle names, my wedding day and other significant events in my life. It is hard for me to imagine that because of playing football I may one day not recognise who my wife and family is because I have dementia far earlier then I should have and the sadness that would occur because of this.
My eldest son started playing modified football last year where they don’t tackle each other but can instead bump. One of the kids in his team accidently got bumped in the head. At the time you think nothing of it but now I am starting to think, am I doing my son harm by letting him play a contact sport where brain damage could be a possibility? What will I do if in future if my sons get a bad concussion when they are teenagers or younger whilst playing footy – do I tell them that they cannot play anymore because of what could happen to their brains?

There is no doubt that much more research needs to be done. The research that has been done (even though it is quite limited at this stage) in Australia and in particular on NFL players in America is quite alarming and frightening, well to me at least. What is the AFL going to do about this? What are all football leagues around the country going to do about this? Should we be concerned or are we over reacting? I don’t have the answers but after seeing Greg Williams on Sunday night I am a bit more of a worried ex footballer.

About Andrew Weiss

Andrew is one of the few Brisbane Lions supporters that lives in the Adelaide Hills. He still has bragging rights over any Crows or Port supporter by mentioning the back to back to back premierships the Lions achieved in 2001-2003. After playing for over a decade for the mighty Adelaide Lutheran Football Club better known as 'The Doggies' he now spends his Saturdays running around footy ovals as an umpire, getting abuse no matter what decision is made. Coaching is probably next on the agenda as his two sons have started to play the great game of AFL. Andrew is a sports fanatic who when not watching or reading about sport is teaching secondary students about Biology, Nutrition and Psychology.


  1. I CAN well understand your concern, Andrew. If you have a son playing modified footy I take it you are not all that old.
    Three major concussions with another 7 or so still in the “con” range is certainly a worrying stat.

    I was knocked out by a tough cookie from Sydney Naval while playing for Uni in the 1960s Sydney Aussie Rules comp. I remember feeling ill on the day after — a Sunday — but by Tuesday thought no more of it.
    As a ruck man I reckon you copped more facial/head knocks than players in other set positions.

    I’m now at the tail-end of my 7th decade so regularly do mind games, such as scramble words in the daily paper. Also regular arithmetic games such as the ones laid out on SBS TV’s Letters and Numbers and the UK- based Countdown shows.
    Anything to keep the mind ticking over.

    Can I suggest you keep the brain busy by doing similar sorts of activities. Also run through in your head birthday dates of your children, nieces, nephews, other family members.
    Write them down and then check with a written family record how many you got right. If less than 75% you’ll need to do more regular, daily brain work.
    Best of luck.

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