Eloni Vunakece, the last player forced into premature retirement due to repeated concussions, has pledged to donate his brain to science through the Australian Sports Brain Bank.
The former cult figure Roosters forward has encouraged other players to follow his lead and the recently retired Isaac de Gois — another player forced to due to a head knock — is considering doing likewise.
Thankfully, Vunakece and de Gois have transitioned successfully into careers post-football without any ongoing concussive symptoms.
Both began playing in an era where it was a badge of honour to remain on the field even if knocked senseless and have praised the NRL for implementing protocols that protect players’ welfare. How repeated concussions affect the grey matter is still a grey area, with researchers only really able to assess the relationship between head knocks and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy in dead people.
Vunakece has taken an interest in the subject and happily subjects himself to testing that may help understanding of the issue. Only this week, the Fijian international got in touch with specialists to pledge his brain for research.
“I’m not expert in the space, but if I can help progress the area then I will put my hand up and do so,” Vunakece said. “If I can add 10 years to someone’s life by donating to help the next generation, I’d encourage that.”