Footy Legend's Kids Beg For Action On Concussion, CTE
"We can't wait" for changes to protect athletes from brain injuries, say the children of late NRL stalwart Steve Folkes, who are worried his former teammates may be at risk of developing serious brain injuries.
Folkes, who won four premierships with the Canterbury Bulldogs as a player and another while coaching the team in 2004, died unexpectedly in February 2018. After his death, he was one of the first rugby league players diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease linked to repeated head trauma.
America's National Football League settled a class action brought by hundreds of former players, paying out more than US$500 million as of 2018, with estimates it will reach over US$1 billion.
The link established between CTE and rugby league rocked Australian sport in June, when researchers from the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, NSW Health Pathology and the University of Sydney's Brain and Mind Centre identified CTE in the brains of two former rugby league players -- Folkes later named as one of them.
The NRL has enacted safeguards in recent years, such as compulsory concussion tests for players after head knocks in-game. This week, the code announced a partnership with Harvard University for a new study described as one of the biggest of its kind in the world, with an initial grant of $250,000 for the Retired Professional Rugby League Players Brain Health Study.
Speaking to The Sunday Project, in an interview to be aired on Sunday night, Folkes' children Hayley and Dan said they now thought back to what they think were symptoms linked to their dad's head injuries.
"He said 'nah, I'll be alright, I'll be right'... 'too many head knocks', he used to say," Hayley told Lisa Wilkinson.
His children said they didn't know much about CTE previously, but learned a lot after their dad's unexpected death.
"We requested the post mortem report from the coroner... it told us that he had an enlarged heart, that was his cause of death and that … contributing but not related to the cause of death was the CTE," Hayley said.
"When we did Google CTE, it made a whole lot of sense," Dan said.
Folkes' kids said they now worried about the other footballers their dad played with and coached over his long and storied rugby league career, which is why they decided to speak out.
"These guys that are struggling now may not die for 30 years. We can't wait 30 years until we get some answers," Hayley said.
"I’ve had messages from people saying that they’re really struggling and they’re young... like late 30s early 40s."
Watch the full interview on The Sunday Project at 6.30pm on Channel 10.