Paul Gallen admits he may one day be affected by long-term brain damage as a result of his sporting career, and he’s willing to accept it.
The 41-year-old ended a two-decade career on Wednesday by defeating Justin Hodges in their boxing rematch at Sydney’s ICC.
Gallen rides into the sunset after 18 professional fights and more than 400 games as a professional rugby league player, having spent 16 years in the most physical position in the middle of the field.
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While he was never knocked out in the ring – and knocked to the canvas only once – Gallen copped his fair share of heavyweight punches to the head.
He knows he is at risk of developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) – a degenerative brain disease that has been found in many deceased football players in recent years.
“It’s part of life. What can I do about it?” Gallen told media after beating Hodges via unanimous decision.
“I’ve played over 400 games of rugby league. I’ve had 15 or 20 fights. What’s the point of worrying about it?
“This CTE, all that sort of stuff, I’m not trying to downplay it but you don’t find out about it until you’re dead anyway, or you don’t know until you’re dead.
“I’ve got a wonderful family, a beautiful wife. I’m loving life. I’m in a good place financially. I don’t need the money anymore so what’s there to worry about?
“Whatever comes up in the future, comes up and I’ll deal with it then.”
Gallen has vowed to never get in the boxing ring again, claiming to have amassed $25 million from the sport in the last three years alone.
But the damage to his brain may have already been done.
The former Cronulla and Blues captain last year first revealed his concerns about CTE.
“I had two concussion tests ever (during my NRL career). One of them was after an offload and Dylan Napa got me with a bit of a high shot and I stumbled a bit when I got back up but I was fine, I passed the test,” Gallen told WWOS radio.
“The other one I didn’t need at all and I passed that test also. So, I was never knocked out thankfully.
“With all this talk about it, I do think about it now, it is in my mind but I think that’s only because there is so much talk about it.
“I carry a pen with me whenever I’m doing radio now because sometimes I think I’m going to forget things so I write things down and that sort of worries me.”
Doctors found CTE in the brain of former NRL player and coach Paul Green following his shock death in August.
Hodges was close friends with Green, having played together at the Roosters and then linked up at the Broncos as player and assistant coach.
He is one of many retired players wondering whether the disease will hit him, or not.
“It’s hard, man, you get headaches now,” Hodges told CODE earlier this month.
“With footy, we’ve had long careers and the game now, as soon as you get hit in the head, you’ve gotta come off and get assessed.
“But in the era that we played, you’d get knocked out and you’d continue to play with stars in your eyes and stuff.”
Hodges has all but confirmed he too will retire from professional boxing following his loss to Gallen.
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