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Concussions in spotlight as young gun steps away from football

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By Colin MacGillivray

WHILE concussions have been prominent in the public discourse about Australian professional football in recent years, they are less often discussed at a local level.

But Kilmore Football Netball Club centre half forward Bailey Taylor-Egan shone a spotlight on the issue last week when the club announced he would step away from football indefinitely to deal with the fallout of a pre-existing head injury.

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Club president Ben Egan, who is the brother of Taylor-Egan, said bad migraines that Taylor-Egan suffered after games led to the discovery of brain lesions.

“It was found that he had a brain bleed at some stage and the lesions would flare up after a game and cause significant pain in his head,” Egan said.

“He was medicated for it and he’s been managing that for the past couple of years, but it’s been quite difficult for him.

“A lot of times after a game the boys would walk off celebrating a win and he’d almost have to be helped off the ground. He’d sometimes sit in the corner with his head in his hands, not being able to join in with the celebrations because he was so sick.”

Taylor-Egan suffered a concussion during one of Kilmore’s final pre-season training sessions – one of an estimated four or five concussions that Egan said Taylor-Egan had sustained throughout his time playing for Kilmore’s Assumption College and the Blues.

Taylor-Egan told Kilmore coaches and officials he would play the season on a week-by-week basis after his latest concussion, but struggled to walk from the field after the Blues’ round one loss to Laurimar.

The following week the club advised Taylor-Egan to step away from the game and prioritise his health.

The Kilmore president said news stories about former AFL footballers who suffered from repeated concussions were concerning.

“Concussions are a big deal in the news at the moment. You look at case studies of players struggling post-footy and having significant brain injuries – people like Shane Tuck and Max Rooke,” he said.

Tuck, a former Richmond player, took his own life in 2020, with a post-mortem examination uncovering evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, CTE – a brain condition associated with repeated head trauma and medically linked to negative mental health, cognition and memory outcomes.

Former Geelong premiership player Rooke is currently leading a class action lawsuit against the AFL after suffering an estimated 30 to 40 concussions during his playing career, alleging he had self-harmed and suffered from depression following his retirement.

“We didn’t want [Bailey] getting into that phase, particularly at such a young age,” Egan said.

“From the committee down to the coaching staff and players, nobody has tried to talk him out of it. He’s absolutely doing what’s right because we’ve seen the impact concussions can have on you.”

Egan said players who had suffered similar side effects from head injuries had reached out to Taylor-Egan and the 22-year-old had been referred to a neurologist.

He said the club would continue to support Taylor-Egan off field as he recovered.

“We’ll get him involved where we can. He’s probably not one who’s into coaching, but he’ll still help out,” Egan said.

“He was at our function on Saturday and comes to all our events.”

Taylor-Egan was named in the Northern Football Netball League 2022 division three team of the year, and was one of Kilmore’s best young players in recent seasons.

Egan said Taylor-Egan had not ruled out a return to football but stressed the forward’s health would be the foremost priority.

“He hasn’t even ruled out playing again this year, but we’re not going to push him into it at all,” Egan said.

“We’re putting his health over anything else. We’re not interested in pushing him back into playing.”

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