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Exclusive: Ex-Super League forward Olsi Krasniqi in brain trauma injury revelation and horrific symptoms

For one former rugby league player, the increasing discussions on concussion have all been very much close to home.

Olsi Krasniqi, the former London Broncos, Salford Red Devils and Toronto Wolfpack forward, was forced to retire at the beginning of November after being found to have a brain injury from playing rugby league.

That news came just weeks after a conglomerate of 50 ex-professionals set out their plan to sue the Rugby Football League (RFL) for alleged negligence surrounding the concussion issue.

But, Krasniqi has revealed that not only has there been a physical issue, but emotionally, the suffering has been unbearable at times.

“After getting concussed in round one it was just one too many and the effects from it is something I’m paying the price for until this day, a whole nine months later,” Krasniqi told Serious About Rugby League.

“This year has been pretty difficult and a rollercoaster of emotions, I spent the best part of the season trying to return to play while life at home was massively shaken up.

“It’s only when you look back and think to yourself how on earth could I have realistically returned to play when normal daily tasks were difficult to perform.

“There were times where I couldn’t stand without getting dizzy and couldn’t be outside in the sunlight because it brought on headaches, more dizziness, and balance problems.

“On several occasions I would drive to training and have to pull over and give my eyes a rest as the early morning sun was unbearable.

“Then attempt to go in to the training ground and try to be your normal self and be a leader within the group, it was hard.

“As men, let alone Rugby League players, you deny the fact you may be struggling but add in a high stake’s sports environment and the symptoms of concussion plus trying to suppress all the emotions that are wildly unpredictable, it becomes a real recipe for disaster.

“I struggled a lot with anxiety and the unknown of what the future holds not just career wise but my long term health. Concussions are strange because they completely take you away from your normal self, and someone smarter than me can talk about the science behind it but for me I lost my sense of self and felt like I was in a constant fog wherever I went, which wasn’t a great time for me.”

The Albanian-born 29-year-old has, however, praised the staff at his most recent club London for the help which they gave him in his desperate time of need.

“I was extremely lucky that Wardy (Danny Ward) and the rest of the coaching staff were incredibly supportive and gave me the time I needed, and that we had a physio in Charlie Baxter who specialized in Vestibular rehab, and she helped bring me back to some sort of normality.

“I still struggle with the symptoms now at times, but I have made many significant lifestyle changes which have made a huge difference and have put me on a better road to recovery.”

Krasniqi was keen to stress that players need to put their hand up more, regardless of outside and inside pressure to ‘carry on’, and admit that they are suffering when concussions hit.

“What people have to understand is that the last concussion is just the last straw, I have had a series of concussions that spanned 12 years of my career that were never treated in the right manner, many times being cleared to play a lot earlier than I probably should of and a lot of that comes down to me personally and my choices but between 2008 when I joined the academy to around 2015/16 it was the Wild West when it came to concussions and many players went through similar things, and you just fought on.

“Recovery was rest a couple days and the expectation was that you played on, admittedly I also had that same attitude, but players need to be saved from themselves sometimes because if given the choice to play or not, they’ll more than likely choose to play as ‘to not let anyone down’.

“I believe that culture and way of thinking is still in the game today with players too worried to say anything because it might jeopardise their spot and is something I’ve witnessed first hand and it’s extremely difficult for a young player especially to do but at the end of the day if you miss a few games you have to realise there is a long time to get things back on track and an even longer life post rugby to think about.”

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