Josh Kronfeld open to donating brain for CTE research

Mon, Feb 20

Former All Blacks forward Josh Kronfeld says he's open to donating his brain for research into concussion and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).

There’s mounting concerns around the long-term impacts of contact sports on the brain.

TVNZ’s Sunday programme yesterday told the story of Justin Jennings, the first New Zealand rugby player to be diagnosed with CTE, the degenerative brain disease linked to repeated head knocks.

He played rugby for 22 years, and his brain now lives inside a Tupperware-like container in a freezer chilled to minus 80 degrees Celsius in the Neurological Foundation Human Brain Bank at the University of Auckland.

More than 40 people including some former All Blacks and amateur players from different codes have registered to donate their brain after death to the New Zealand Sports Human Brain Bank.

Speaking to Breakfast, 54-Test All Black Kronfeld said donating his brain after his death is something he'd consider.

"On my licence where you tick the box where you can donate your body parts. Look, if anything’s still functioning 100% when I pass, I’m fully up for that. Any progress we can make with this disease would be fantastic."

Kronfeld suffered concussions during his playing days, but it was a knock he received after retirement that really brought home how his body and mind had changed.

He says it took 18 months to get past it, and he's still not sure if he's fully recovered.

"I’m just not as patient as I could be, I used to be a very patient man… you know when you can handle things, I don’t think I can. I tend to get from one level of reaction to suddenly very quickly reacting to it, which is frustrating."

Now he's at a place where he can understand what's going on, meaning he can keep his frustrations in check. However, he often finds himself in "fight or flight" mode.

Kronfeld said there were other players out there who were "really struggling", with the impacts of concussion and poor mental health.

"It's just so unknown."

Sir Richard Faull of New Zealand Sports Human Brain Bank told Breakfast the impacts of CTE were an "iceberg".

"Any sort of injury to the head and damage to the brain, whether it abuse during childhood or sports of any sort - rugby, contacts sports, traffic accidents, fall off your bike and hit you head - these are concussions and your head never forgets what's happened. And the next one gets a bit worse.

"We need to find out what's going on in each brain of the person who died, get the history from the families, and put it all together."


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