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by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

Young and promising Brisbane defender Justin Clarke has announced his retirement due to a concussion he suffered during a training drill in January. He has been sidelined since the injury. In a media statement, Clarke said he had consulted several specialists who told him he could no longer play contact sports. Any sort of head knock, no matter how minor, could cause symptoms to recur, lengthen recovery time, and possibly cause permanent damage. He has had memory issues and has not been able to exercise in any way since the injury. However, the specialists did tell him this all will pass and he will recover in time.

The knock was so severe that Clarke could hardly remember anything from the first three weeks after the injury. He said the memory loss was the scariest part of it all and he compensates by making lists to organize himself. He related an incident when he was on his way to the university and forgot the route he was taking, saying it really scared him when he could not remember which way to go. He became emotional and choked up a bit when he expressed disappointment at not being able to play again, "The worst thing is I won't be able to go out with my mates and experience that feeling of comradeship and all that it entails ... It's something I guess as a 22-year-old you shouldn't really have to worry about."  Club CEO Greg Swan said it was a shame Clarke had to retire and believed he would have been a quality player years to come. Swan also said Clarke was highly regarded at the club, describing him as a quality individual. The club had been hopeful of building the team defense around him.

Originally from South Australia, he was the fourth selection in the 2012 Rookie Draft and debuted in 2013 after being elevated to the senior list. He quickly established himself as a serious and disciplined defender. He played 14 games in 2013 before a shoulder injury premature ended his season, He bounced back in 2014 to play all 22 games for a total of 36 in his short career. Once recovered, he will continue his studies in aeronautical engineering. He also has a pilot's license.

In a related note, the NFL's vice president for health and safety, Jeff Miller, appeared before a United States House of Representatives committee in mid-March. When questioned, he confirmed that the NFL acknowledged a link between concussion and the degenerative brain disease CTE. It was the first time an NFL official had done this. The AFL has not acknowledged a similar link between Australian football and CTE.


Article last changed on Friday, April 01, 2016 - 7:08 PM EDT

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