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Wallabies back Haylett-Petty retires after concussion battles

Wallabies fullback Dane Haylett-Petty has retired from rugby union after a year-long battle with the lingering effects of concussion, saying doctors had advised him to “listen to your head”.

The 32-year-old had been struggling to return following a blow to the head during a clash with the All Blacks in October 2020, which prompted a diagnosis of “footballer’s migraine”.

“Right at the beginning the specialist said the best thing you could do is listen to your head,” he told foxsports.com.au.

“While I’m much better, I haven’t been able to shake some of the symptoms.”

The announcement late Sunday came just days after former All Blacks star Carl Hayman revealed he had been diagnosed with early onset dementia aged just 41, further highlighting the risks of concussion in contact sports.

Hayman has joined a lawsuit brought by similarly affected former players, including England’s Steve Thompson and Alix Popham of Wales, against the sport’s governing bodies.

Concussion has become a major issue in sports, with a similar lawsuit launched against English rugby league last month and US gridiron authorities reportedly paying out hundreds of millions in compensation to injured players. 

Haylett-Petty, who played 38 Tests for the Wallabies, said he had suffered six or seven head knocks during a 14-year career.

He said the growing spotlight on the risks of concussion had played a part in his decision, along with the recent birth of his first child.

“Sometimes it’s someone’s first head knock, other times it is their sixth head knock, that they start to have symptoms,”he said.

“In saying that, at 32, it’s not the end of the world. I know some guys have had issues after their second head knock at the age of like 21 or 22.

“It’s something that even the best in the world are admitting they are learning more and more about and they don’t fully understand it.”

All Black Jordie Barrett was sent off for elbowing Haylett-Petty during the Wallaby’s final match at Sydney on October 31 last year.

“I got the head knock and got blurry vision and sort of struggled through the game with blurry vision,” Haylett-Petty said.

Headaches brought on by vigorous exercise — so-called “footballer’s migraine” — have persisted ever since.

“They can’t tell you how long it’s going to take to go away but they’ve said, once you stop tackling people and running into people, they expect me to get back to normal,” he said.

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