Article by David Polkinghorne
As a nurse, Suzie Goodall got to see the other side of concussion and hear the horror stories. People falling asleep and never waking up. Brain bleeds requiring emergency surgery.
It’s why the Gungahlin Bulls physiotherapist helped introduce a concussion protocol for the Canberra Raiders Cup team that goes above and beyond the standard.
Bulls winger Ryan Cronin missed a month of football after he was knocked out playing the Queanbeyan Kangaroos, but he’ll play his third game back against the ladder-leading Tuggeranong Bushrangers at Gungahlin on Saturday.
Physio Suzie Goodall has helped implement a stringent concussion protocol at the Gungahlin Bulls that goes above and beyond. Photo: Jamila Toderas
Goodall’s been with the Bulls for years and is also the physio for the Kookaburras, Australia’s men’s hockey team.
Her and two of the Bulls trainers have nursing backgrounds and have made it their mission to introduce stringent concussion protocols at the club.
Any player suspected of concussion is taken from the field and doesn’t return.
They’re tested to see whether they need to go to hospital and are then constantly monitored for the rest of the day.
One of the problems she’s found is athletes don’t always tell the doctor exactly what happened, which is why they give them a form with all the details for a designated doctor to sign before they can return to training or playing.
“They’re not going to get around us. At times I’m not the most loved person by the athletes, but they won’t have a problem when it comes to concussion,” Goodall said.
“I’ve seen the bad end of concussion and then you hear all the stories of people leaving their athletes on their own or they’ve gone off to sleep and haven’t woken up, or they’ve had a slow bleed.
“I just don’t think some people realise how bad it can be. But if you do the right thing from the start you’re sweet. “Goodall’s Powerhouse Physio practice uses the same protocol at the other clubs they work with in Canberra and she was happy to share her ideas with others as well.
She was also keen to see if there was a way to regulate concussion across the Canberra Raiders Cup. “It’d be really good if we could get all the clubs together and say, ‘Hey, let’s get this protocol happening for all our players. ‘ That would be awesome,” she said.
Bulls coach David Howell was concussed “plenty” of times as a player and was fully supportive of Goodall – even if it was frustrating to have his players sidelined.
But he was conscious of their welfare, especially given he has a young side.
He felt it was harder to regulate at club level, in comparison to the NRL or representative football, but the introduction of live streaming could help.
“It is definitely a lot harder … it’s hard to monitor it at our level. It’s probably a bit easier now with every game getting videoed,” Howell said.
“I’m all for it, I’ve had plenty [of concussions] in my time and that’s how it was in the old days you got up and played on, but especially myself with a young side you’ve got to look after their future.
“Especially being park football it’s not their life it’s just enjoyment.”
Cronin, 18, moved to Canberra from Wagga Wagga to join the Raiders under-20s late last year.
Injury has cruelled his first season in the ACT, breaking his collarbone before getting concussed.
He still doesn’t remember what happened – a stray knee caught him in the back of his head while he was laying a tackle and knocked him out.
It took four weeks before he was allowed to return.
While the Bulls can’t make the finals, Cronin said they had nothing to lose and was looking forward to trying to upset the teams that could – starting with the Bushrangers on Saturday.
“I remember bits and pieces of the game, but not most of it,” he said. “I was happy to do it [the protocols], but it started to get annoying because I was out for about three or four weeks so I was starting to get a bit annoyed because I just wanted to be out there playing.”