Graham: I felt rugby league was worth dying for

James Graham was one of the legends of the game and he had an elite career on both sides of the world, being one of a select few, to lift Super League and NRL titles.

Whilst international silverware never came for Graham he did receive a prestigious ‘Golden Cap’ for making 50 appearances at that level, something nobody else has achieved.

That came through longevity in the game and hard work and it’s something that he’s revealed may have an impact on his health in the long run.

As part of a discussion about concussion led by former Leeds Rhino, Stevie Ward, the former St Helens’ man talked about how the sport and it’s knocks and bruises has impacted him.

“I thought very deeply about life and death and what sport meant to me and perhaps the meaning in life for me was to find something worth dying for, and was that rugby league?

“So when a neurologist comes to me and says ‘I would advise you to discontinue’, then what’s the alternative? What am I supposed to do? I know my personality type, I think I know what the alternative path was for me if it hadn’t have been for a sport that gave me a focus, a purpose and a sense of direction.

“It was everything for me, if I had to pay the ultimate price for that then so be it. I don’t say these comments without having deep thought about is, so for me it’s about bringing as many stakeholders in the game along with us.”

The discussion was hosted by Ward, someone who had to retire due to long term consequences of concussion, and it was broadcast by Sky Sports.

Graham also revealed to the panel the worrying effects concussion may have had for his own health following an MRI scan.

“It showed that there’s a significant reduction in volume in a certain area of the brain and there’s some concerning dark spots on one side of the brain. Because it’s not on both sides they think it came from a number of blows.”

Going forward he believes the current and next generation of player can learn from the experiences he has undergone and also from the research that is constantly in process.

“We have a huge emphasis on winning and performance culture, we don’t have an emphasis on health culture.

“It’s just perhaps tipping the scales slightly in favour of the health aspect of sport.

“Concussion is on the mind of anyone involved in the sport at the moment. It’s all very well and good the best neurologists in the world to tell us about the dangers of concussion and continuing to play.”

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