Six concussions in four years

Six concussions in four years spells an end to Trent Richards’ career at 25

A HEAVY collision in 2016 began a chain of head injuries that has seen Trent Richards retire from football at 25.

A dual-premiership player with South Barwon, Richards was coming into his prime as a GFL footballer when he was first knocked out.

Four years and five more head knocks on, and after six months of recovery from his last hit, he decided to give away the game he loves.

A short temper, dizziness and headaches have plagued the left-footer since his final game in June against Leopold, leading him to look for a non-contact avenue to stay in sport.

“I got completely knocked out and I don’t remember anything of that weekend,” Richards said.

“I think I went in an ambulance to Geelong hospital. I spent the night there and recovered at home for the week.

“I had two weeks off, then the bye came in and I came back to playing football.

“I just went to the GP to get a sign-off to play again.”

A hard worker, Richards had developed from a small forward in South Barwon’s premiership era to a key part of a young, developing side.

His 2019 season started solidly before a dangerous tackle dumped his head into the turf in a win over Geelong West.

It was an incident that would see his opponent Hunter Lloyd suspended for two weeks.

“I wasn’t fully knocked out. I remember everything before and after it, just not my head making contact with the ground,” he said.

“The recovery from that was massive headaches. I took two weeks off then came back.

“I was still getting headaches playing football and running at high intensity.”

The recovery was so slow that Richards resolved to see a specialist after the Round 8 clash with Leopold.

His hand was forced after he was knocked out against the Lions, in what would be his 103rd and final game of senior football with the Swans.

After this final hit, his on-field battle began to bleed into his personal life and his work as a carpenter.

Richards had no history of head injuries when he was first injured in mid-2016.

“(After that concussion) I remember seeing a lot of people and they said I looked like a ghost, like there was nothing between my ears, like there was no personality there,” Richards said.

“I progressively got better, had the whole week off work and went back to work.

“But I couldn’t comprehend anything. I felt like I lost all of my skills.

“Work was difficult. It was difficult especially with the balance thing walking on planks and being on ladders is pretty risky, but I was back to proper work maybe a month after.

“I’ve even noticed a little bit in my life, I’ve got a really short temper. I can sort of put it down to this. I don’t think I was very short-fused before this happened.”

Richards saw specialists in Melbourne and Geelong before he was referred to Epworth Geelong’s concussion clinic and its lead physician Dr Reem Al Hanna.

Weekly sessions during August and September saw progress, but Richards still isn’t able to exercise at his maximum heart-rate without suffering symp“He had a lot of symptoms at the start that he described earlier. We discharge when your symptoms come down to zero and his examination testing is back to normal,” Dr Al Hanna said.

“It’s not uncommon to have autonomic dysfunction, where you have variability in blood pressure and heart-rate.

“This is taken into account when planning a patient’s return. The graded return to exercise or sport protocol is used as a guide and is tailored to the patient.”

A talented junior swimmer, Richards has an eye on shifting his sport focus towards triathlons or other non-contact sport.

He will still be a presence at training at McDonald Reserve and hopes to become involved in development at the club.

Returning to the football field is now unrealistic, given the increasing symptoms with each concussion over the past four seasons and the changes he saw in himself.

Despite a love for his football club – he grew up just a couple of drop punts South Barwon’s clubrooms – Richards will now have to watch on from outside the fence.

“You’ve got to weigh up what’s best for you and I think my life and my future is more important than playing football,” he said.

Story published by Geelong Advertiser – By Josh Barnes, December 20, 2019.