Why Royce Simmons needs another 51 kilometers to walk Alzheimer’s

Let’s get out of the way. There is no denying that Royce Simmons is a salt-of-the-earth-rugby league character that almost everyone likes, and his walk through New South Wales to raise awareness and funding for Alzheimer’s research is an undeniable event.

Last Tuesday Simmons set out for a walk about 300 kilometers from his old town Gooloogong, NSW to his spiritual home, Panthers Stadium in Penrith. He is scheduled to arrive there on Friday and on the way he is expected to raise more than $ 500,000 for Alzheimer’s research through his support mission, multiple fundraising events and publicity for Dementia Australia.

Daily updates to a website set up for the event tell the story of the 1991 Grand Final two-try hero and the showering of good wishes for the cause itself.

The seeds for the walk were sown in February last year, when Simmons, then 61, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease after visiting a neurologist in the eastern suburbs. The diagnosis gave Simmons an explanation for the memory deficits he was increasingly carrying.

So the idea of ​​walking helps to shed light on the deceptive nature of the disease, especially the plight of family members affected by the suffering of their loved ones; To bring dementia to more public consciousness; And to help raise funds for research.

But when many of Simmons’ past teammates and opponents have gathered around him and given their own time and goodwill, there is an uncomfortable argument that has been deliberately left unsaid: recognition of the possible cause of his brain injury.

In announcing his intention to walk, Simmons said the cause of his condition was “inconsistent”. In fact, Simmons insisted that although he was aware that some people might try to link his dementia to the injuries he suffered in his rugby league career, he was not given any evidence to show the exact cause of his dementia.

A liberal explanation might be that Simmons prefers to focus on Alzheimer’s research and leave it at that. Another view is that Simmons, because of his preference, has given up the opportunity to use his plight to help other rugby league players to cope with adversity like his.

By doing so, the opportunity to put pressure on the NRL to do more about promoting discussion around concussions in the rugby league and reducing brain injury has been effectively sidelined.

It is true that today’s science does not provide an absolute guarantee that Simmons’ condition will be irrevocably linked to the number of injuries he has suffered in his career. But it is also true that there is a significant – and growing – part of the study that shows a link between injuries and damaging outcomes for participants in a conflict game, including the rugby league.

(Photo by Mark Colby / Getty Images)

Simmons is a contemporary of Canterbury-Banktown forward Steve Fox, who died in 2018 at the age of 59. An autopsy revealed that Folks was suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) as a result of repeated head injuries throughout his career. Fox’s family later confirmed that he was suffering from behavioral and memory loss problems, unlike Simmons, before his death.

In February of this year, Australian Sports Brain Bank released the results of its first set where more than half of the brain had undergone postmortem examination, with most of the rugby league players, professionals and amateurs, performing CTE.

The research, led by Michael Buckland, an associate professor of neuropathology at the University of Sydney, raises a number of concerns, including the possible link between increased suicide risk and the possibility that the prevalence of CTE is not necessarily the result of serious one-off excitement but potentially a player’s career length and duration. Several of these are related to the accumulation of small sub-conscious hits.

For many well-known experts, such as Alan Pierce, an associate professor at Buckland and La Trobe University, science is on the rise, yet sports organizations like NRL continue to use carefully commissioned research where more time is needed to allow convenient combinations and random data to kick them off. Injuries can go further and further down the road.

The problem now for other organizations, such as NRL and AFL, is that the recent public outcry is likely to change how the high-profile associate Professor Paul McCrory, the lead author of the Conclusion in Sport Group’s consensus statement, shrinks. The sport is addressed globally and organizations like NRL are called upon to account sooner than expected.

Meanwhile, the NRL could point to a continuation of last year’s refereeing and judicial crackdown, which saw a large number of players sent off the field for forced high-head contact, as evidence they were taking the matter seriously.

After some initial hiccups, a revised arrangement where players are removed from the field on suspicion of contracting under the direction of an independent doctor has been seen as an improvement over previous practice of relying on club doctors.

For NRL’s credit, Graham Annely, head of football, advised South Sydney coach Jason Demetrius this week to criticize South Sydney coach Jason Demetrius for removing his player from the field.

Nevertheless, high communication is still prevalent and there are inconsistencies around how trespassers are dealt with. It is not yet clear if there is sufficient resistance to support the notion that player behavior has changed and that NRL has not taken any steps to open a conversation about height and tackle tactics and how changes can reduce the incidence of injuries.

There is still a lack of clarity around injury reporting and outside of any obvious field, it is very difficult for anyone to determine the actual number of head injuries. All that is known is that the players – despite a return to game protocols – are returning to the game after multiple injuries, including Cronulla forward Dale Finuken, who recently suffered his fourth major injury in ten months.

For his part, Simmons deserves enough to take a back seat to force the NRL’s hand for a head injury. But the manner in which the matter has been declared out of bounds speaks to a bound culture that exists within the rugby league.

Simmons is the epitome of a hard-working, hard-nut, laconic rugby league character you’ll ever meet. The ‘ratings’ in this game that have given him pleasure year after year will be unimaginable.

It is clear that no external pressure will force the NRL’s hand. With Newcastle Knights player James McManus’ case against the NRL settled out of court last year and NRL players reluctant to join class action against their governing body, as a large group of AFL players have done, there is no immediate or imminent pressure point. Exists

Steeden Rugby League Generic

(Matthew Lewis / Getty Images)

If there is to be any change, there is going to be an honest and open discussion about the type and future of the Rugby League game and whether long-term health and safety of its participants is a real concern. Or not, then that change can only be managed by someone of high quality from within the game.

That change is starting to happen in the UK, where a team of players has started legal action against the Rugby Football League. The group includes Bobby Golding, the former Great of England, who was diagnosed with dementia at the age of 49.

As a result of the work of advocacy groups such as the Jeff Astel Foundation (Football) and Progressive Rugby (Rugby), Golding has spoken out because of a greater level of community awareness of the problem in the UK where his Australian rivals are unlikely. Reunion).

Compared to the UK, Australia is a consensual backwater, where both the NRL and the AFL specialize in controlling media descriptions for their respective games.

This Friday, before the Penrith vs North Queensland Cowboys match, Simmons will again be welcomed at Panthers Stadium as the hero.

Walking 300 kilometers in a row is not a pointless endeavor, and once all the backslapping is over, Simmons will undoubtedly keep his feet up and wait for his aching bones to rest.

Neither this author nor anyone else would suggest that he add another 51 kilometers to the top, but what long lasting results can be achieved for future rugby league players if they are selected to cross Simmons Stadium for future rugby league players and create a bellline for the NRL? It’s like thinking. Headquarters

Perhaps Simmons could pick him up for the final expansion of Moore Park next to Ray Price’s house? Or did Steve ‘Tarve’ drop in Mortimer’s place? Both fine men, like Simmons, the protagonists of the game, also suffer weakening effects as a result of repeated head injuries caused by playing rugby league.

The paradox is confusing. Go out of your way to help people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, but how can you remain silent in order to deal with the factors that may have contributed to the rapid onset of the condition in the first place? It denies logic.

There is another paradox. Playing rugby league at this level takes extraordinary courage and bravery. Simmons is without a doubt a brave man and a true hero of the game. By comparison, a rugby league injury or a brain injury should be a snack to lead the discussion.

Simmons’ walkable and raised money will undoubtedly be put to good use. But look at this weekend, when the youngsters get on the field and start kicking each other, and wonder if this walk couldn’t have been more.

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