Ian Roberts is donating his brain to the Australian Sports Brain Bank.
Ian Roberts is donating his brain to the Australian Sports Brain Bank.

Ian Roberts will donate brain to science

RESPECTED rugby league hardman Ian Roberts has become the first person in Australia to pledge his brain to a new concussion brain bank.

The former Kangaroo will donate his brain after his death to the Australian Sports Brain Bank, a new research centre to be unveiled on Tuesday.

The bank is a landmark step to explore the impact of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, a debilitating brain disease that can affect people who play contact sports.

Roberts discovered this year that he has irreversible brain damage which may have been caused by ­repeated concussions during his decorated 13-year career.

"When I was a kid growing up, and you received a head knock, you'd get a wet sponge to the face and you'd be told you're good to go," he said. "That was the way of thinking until my first few years at Souths.

"If you were conscious and willing then you were fine to go back on to the field.

"The only times I didn't go back on was when I was literally knocked out cold."

 

Ian Roberts is helped from the field while playing for Manly.
Ian Roberts is helped from the field while playing for Manly.

Knocked unconscious 14 times during his professional career, Roberts discovered he had scarring of his brain after being one of 25 former NRL players involved in an Australian study that found repeated head knocks had resulted in players suffering long-term impairment.

"I've been involved in concussion studies for about three-and-a-half years now," he said.

"I did learn something - that people only sit up and take notice when you call it for what it is and that's brain damage. (It's scary) when you see pictures and scans of scarring of the brain.

Concussion tests of that era were less than state of the art.
Concussion tests of that era were less than state of the art.

"We now know that with that type of concussions there are potential consequences. People need to be aware of that.

"The brain bank is a really big step forward for health and education.

"It's a really big step forward for sport as well."

Former WWE wrestler-turned-concussion advocate Dr Chris Nowinski will launch the brain bank in conjunction with the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and the University of Sydney's brain and mind centre.

Ian Roberts played rugby league at the highest level.
Ian Roberts played rugby league at the highest level.

"It's important people get on board with this type of ­research and education," Roberts said. "My brain is no good to me after I'm gone.

"I feel like I need to do it. I feel like it's the right thing to do. I'm not criticising any ex-players who don't want to do it. People need to be prepared to put their hand up. This is about generations to come."

Roberts reached the greatest heights during his career, playing 194 top-grade games for South Sydney, Manly and North Queensland while also representing NSW and Australia.

"The crazy thing is my mind is a bit small and rough around the edges so I hope it suffices," he joked.



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