Paul Gallen has excelled in two of the most brutal sports. But the former Sharks captain admits he fears the impact that constant head knocks will have.
Paul Gallen has excelled in two of the most brutal sports. But the former Sharks captain admits he fears the impact that constant head knocks will have.

‘I worry about it’: Gallen opens up on head trauma

Paul Gallen takes a pen with him to work as a commentator.
"I always write things down, just in case I do forget," he says.
As a kid, Gallen had a terrible stutter in his speech.
He'd embarrassingly have to stop, repeat, stammer, try again, just to ask for an ice cream at the corner store.
"I don't want to end up stuttering again,'' Gallen confesses.
"I've probably got that susceptibility in me, so that may come back.
"I think after 400-games of rugby league and a few fights, there's a fair chance to say there's going to be some type of issue from head knocks.
"How that affects me, I don't know?"
Gallen, love him or loathe him, is human.
Impossible to comprehend for the haters who could use a head injury assessment of their own, is that inside Gallen's skull, is a brain.

 

Watch Paul Gallen v Lucas Browne only on Main Event on Wednesday 21 April at 7pm AEST. ORDER NOW >

 

Paul Gallen has opened up about the impact of head knocks. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Adam Yip
Paul Gallen has opened up about the impact of head knocks. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Adam Yip

 


Inside his heart are emotions, a consciousness and a ticking clock, reminding him every day that he's closer than ever before to finally blowing out the competitive fire that has spanned two decades.

Approaching his 40th Birthday, Gallen has amassed 409 first-class rugby league games for Australia, NSW State of Origin, NRL All Stars and his beloved Cronulla Sharks.

On Wednesday night in Wollongong, Gallen will step between the ropes for his 13th pro-fight against former WBA world champion Lucas 'Big Daddy' Browne.

He worries less about how to beat 'Big Daddy', who will try to grapple the much fitter Gallen, in a bid to slow the fight down.

What the father of four knows he can't beat, is what he can't see.

And right now across the sporting world, the impact of head knocks and concussion, is every collision sport's bogeyman.

"Five years ago when I was playing rugby league, I had the attitude of who cares, if I have issues from head knocks, it will happen,'' Gallen said.

"But at my age now, with a family - I do worry about it.

"I do think about it.

"I'm still boxing, still sparring, so I'm not saying it's going to stop me.

"Fingers crossed it doesn't affect me too bad.

 

Gallen gets patched up after a brutal hit. Picture: Gregg Porteous
Gallen gets patched up after a brutal hit. Picture: Gregg Porteous

 

"You can't predict it, so you just don't know.

"It's something I've got to be careful with, I'm not going to try and down play it.

"It's probably why I haven't got long left in me.

"At 41, I don't need to be copping the punishment I'm copping.''

Gallen's ability to withstand and deliver at the elite level of two of the world's most brutal sports - rugby league and boxing - since 2001 is a feat few athletes in Australian sporting history have ever achieved.

But what few know is, which is remarkable given the punishment he has put his body through, is that Gallen has never been medically diagnosed with a concussion.

Only twice was he required to undergo a HIA (head injury assessment) during his rugby league career.

"I passed both tests and played-on,'' he said.

Gallen has one theory why he possibly has been able to avoid having his brain rattled by repeated head shots; a neck strengthening routine he's performed since he was 10-years old.

"One thing I do to combat my head getting rocked is, I do a heap of neck strengthening,'' Gallen said.

 

Paul Gallen during the early days of his career in 2003. Picture: AAP
Paul Gallen during the early days of his career in 2003. Picture: AAP

 

"In the Under-9's while playing for Wentworthville, our trainer always made us go through neck strengthening exercises.

"Ever since, I have always done them.

"When I was a kid, I would push the front, back and side of my head - my neck resisting the force of my push.

"Then I moved into jiu jitsu training and I have always rolled on my neck on the ground and used a swiss ball and thick band to pull my head back.

"I've continued that pretty religiously my whole career.

"I also remember as a kid, I used to like watching Mike Tyson and I would see him do neck rolling exercises on the ground and as we know, he was renowned for withstanding a fair bit of a beating.

"I'm not a doctor, but my own personal theory is, your neck holds your head and if you can keep your neck strong and have it so your head doesn't move around too much, then hopefully when you do get hit, it doesn't rattle your brain as much.

"I actually had the Sharks head trainer call me and ask, is there anything boxers do for concussion to try and prevent it?

 

Paul Gallen and Jeff Fenech talking with each other at Bondi Boxing club. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Adam Yip
Paul Gallen and Jeff Fenech talking with each other at Bondi Boxing club. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Adam Yip

 

"I don't think there's a lot you can do, but I did tell him that neck strengthening is what I've always done.''

Gallen is growing tired of waiting for Sonny Bill Williams to agree to the one fight that was first raised as a possibility back in 2013.

For the past eight years, Williams has used every excuse aside from his dog eating the repeated contract offers to avoid Gallen.

Gallen wants the fight, but not at the expense of his health.

"I've done okay from boxing as it is, I could retire tomorrow and I'd be okay,'' Gallen said.

"It's not about having to do this because I need a dollar.

"It's just to challenge myself physically, I want to do it and as a father, I want to set my family up for generations to come.

"But that doesn't mean I don't know when to stop,'' Gallen said.

"I know that I can't keep punishing my body and head forever.''

 

Watch Paul Gallen v Lucas Browne only on Main Event on Wednesday 21 April at 7pm AEST. ORDER NOW >

Originally published as 'I worry about it': Gallen opens up on head trauma

Gallen on the turf after an Origin hit.
Gallen on the turf after an Origin hit.


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