Former AFL star Jack Frost has revealed the emotional and physical toll of concussions suffered during his footy career.
Frost only played 56 games in the AFL, with a majority of his time spent at Collingwood (54 games) and a very brief stint at the Brisbane Lions (2 games) before he was forced into retirement in 2018 due to repeated concussions.
Remarkably, in just six years in the AFL Frost had suffered 14 concussions – in addition to those he had before reaching the AFL – and unfortunately the effects of those knocks still hugely impact his life today.
“I’ve come a long way since I first retired but I still suffer from little things like noise,” Frost told SEN Breakfast.
“Like if I go to a cafe or a supermarket and it’s all hustle bustle, I start to shutdown a little bit which is pretty frustrating. So a lot of day-to-day tasks are still quite difficult for me.”
Frost said the lockdown Victorians are experiencing following a spike in coronavirus cases recently is basically what he goes through most days.
“It’s sort of what I’ve been doing for the past two years really,” the 28-year-old said.
“I haven’t been able to leave the house. Couldn’t leave a dark room. Couldn’t hold conversations. Couldn’t remember anything. So I’ve seen some bad stuff.”
Frost revealed the very moment that he knew his playing days were numbered, following a concussion playing in a NEAFL match, when his head hit another player’s hip, but he was not knocked out.
“I couldn’t see for about 20 minutes,” Frost said.
“I remember kneeling on the ground and sort of thought, ‘This could be it. I can’t keep doing this sort of stuff’.
“The professional medical advice at the time was that it was highly recommended to stop playing because if I keep going down this path I’m not going to end up well at all.”
After he retired, Frost said he couldn’t train properly because of the detrimental effect the concussions had on his heart.
“The last couple of years I haven’t been able to get my heart rate up at all,” he said.
“Doing any form of exercise would make me feel like my head was going to blow off my shoulders.
“That’s actually a pretty common symptom for concussion when you’re out for a long time, but that’s been one of my longer ongoing issues.
“My heart rate doesn’t gradually come down when it’s supposed to or go up when it’s supposed to, it’s sort of all over the shop so it makes exercise very hard. Even when I go from laying down to standing up, my heart rate goes right up when it shouldn’t.”
Frost said he wasn’t able to watch AFL for a while.
In retrospect Frost candidly admitted that he didn’t believe the treatment he received at the time was sufficient, although methods for dealing with concussions and associated after-effects has developed in recent years.
“Looking back on it, [I] probably [was] not given the right advice,” he said.
“But I think that’s the hard issue at the moment; what is the right advice?
“I think care probably wasn’t shown but, again, if people don’t know what the proper care is then it’s tough to give that, I suppose. But ‘no’ is the short answer.”
Frost remains hopeful that some of the negative effects of his concussions will ease within the next few decades, but the unknown of CTE until a player’s death adds to his anxiety.
“You just don’t know, and I think that’s what the scariest thing is and why ultimately I made my decision to retire,” he said.
“I’ve got the rest of my life to live and if I want to enjoy it. Those little knocks probably aren’t worth it for the last couple of years I would have had on my contract anyway.
“You’re a long time retired and I’ve got a lot of life to live so I’d like to live those years out happily around my loved ones and being present and coherent for the rest of my life hopefully.”