Renee Tuck, the sister of former Richmond player Shane Tuck, has opened up on the challenge of watching her brother fade away due to repetitive brain injuries.
Tuck, a Richmond life member, took his own life at age 38 in July 2020 with post-mortem examinations revealing he had a severe case of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE), a rare brain condition associated with repeated blows to the head.
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CTE is a degenerative disease of the brain that can only be diagnosed once a person has died. There is evidence that is causes a decline in cognition, mental health and memory.
“He started becoming very confused. He was getting a bit vague and sometimes you would have to ask him things three times and that’s where it really started snowballing from there,” Renee Tuck revealed on Channel 9’s 60 Minutes.
“Unfortunately we tried medication, we tried electroconvulsive surgery which is brain zapping for depression. Nothing. You would look at him and know he was leaving us, slowly.
“He started seizing up and his motor skills were going into dementia and I knew from a year out from trying as a family to get him back, I knew we were in a lot of trouble.”
Shane Tuck died at the age of 38. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images
Ahead of the 2021 season, both the AFL and NRL have introduced extended periods of time where players will need to be sidelined after concussions.
The Australian Sports Brain Bank currently holds over 20 brains of athletes with countless more donating theirs when they pass away in the future.
“We don’t know how common it (CTE) is, but we do know it is quite rare outside the context of repetitive head injury,” Associate Professor Michael Buckland said.
“You can imagine with hits to the head that the brain is sloshing about and banging against the side of the skull.
“The theme is repetitive knocks to the head. So any sport where you sustain a lot of blows to the head, that’s where you are at risk.”
Buckland revealed it was “quite a shock” to see Tuck’s brain when it was presented to him, because it was so severe he didn’t even need a microscope to diagnose him.
“This is the first time I’ve been able to see it with the naked eye and I was particularly struck. I couldn’t believe I was seeing it someone so young,” he said.
Renee Tuck herself had the opportunity to meet Buckland and saw first hand how deeply concerning her brother’s brain was in comparison to a normal 40-year-old person.
An image of Shane Tuck’s brain.Source:Channel 9
“(There were) so many emotions. The reality of knowing what he went through every day and how hard it really truly was and how hard he fought for his life and for us,” she said.
“That was a bit of a heart stabber. He was broken and he was being ravaged and tormented and traumatised every day of his life. He was living hell that boy.
“He was actually leaving behind a tormented, hell on earth life. Professor Buckland explaining just how bad his brain was makes me understand so much more where he was coming from when he said ‘I’m not OK’.
“A broken arm is a broken arm and it needs a cast and it’s fixed. But when someone’s brain is rotting away on them and it’s turning against them and making every day a war for themselves even trying to continue, how you could ever expect someone to push through that I don’t know.
“I would love that (if more sports players donated their brain). It would be selfless and heroic and amazing. That’s exactly what it’s all about and ultimately it saves lives.”
Originally published asAFL star’s chilling decline revealed
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