James Graham has hit back at criticism of his stance on concussion.
The St George Illawarra prop issued a statement on the Dragons’ website in response to an article that took aim at Graham’s view on head knocks.
Graham last week raised eyebrows when he claimed he was prepared to accept the risk of head knocks to play the game he loved, saying he didn’t want to play Oztag.
It caused a stir after Immortal Andrew Johns revealed concussions during his career may have contributed to his recent epilepsy diagnosis.
Peter FitzSimons criticised Graham in the Sydney Morning Herald article, saying the Dragons forward’s “outrageous” comments downplayed the effect of repeated concussions and the long-term implications of head knocks.
“Time and again … I’d see you knocked motherless and still stay on. One time, you outright refused to leave the field, when a trainer told you the coach wanted you off, yes?” FitzSimons wrote.
“That kind of resilience and will to win is one thing. But your comments downgrading the whole importance of the concussion issue are another. Hence why I write now. Champion, you just don’t get it. Not the first clue.”
Graham launched his scathing response on the Dragons’ website, saying it was the first time he ever felt compelled to respond to an article in his 15-year career.
“I’m actually appalled by you paraphrasing my words ‘basically, getting smashed in the head and getting on with it anyway is what goes with football’,” Graham wrote.
“Sorry NO! I didn’t say that, mate. Complete fiction. If you think I said that maybe you are the one that needs assessing.”
In the lengthy statement, Graham accused FitzSimons of being “condescending” and claimed his article had “glaring errors”.
“I have in fact seen a variety of doctors and completed multiple tests just for my own peace of mind and have took it upon myself to go beyond what the NRL have provided me,” Graham wrote.
“I think this fact debunks your strong opinion that I ‘downgrade the importance of the concussion issue’.
“For the record, I take neurodegeneration and long-term brain diseases incredibly seriously, and in all of the interviews last week in no way did I discount the seriousness of the matter.”
Graham named a series of specialists and recommended FitzSimons research their work on head trauma.
In his statement, Graham also suggested changes to the game to limit head collisions and highlighted other areas that needed to be addressed in the NRL such as substance abuse and life after football.