Wallabies star: ‘I’ll donate my brain’
Wallabies hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau will donate his brain to research after his death to help future players better understand the fallout from repeated head knocks.
The veteran forward has considered the idea for years since learning of studies into the degenerative brain disease CTE uncovered in NFL players in the US.
Recent findings that CTE was found in the brains of two former NRL players, each involved in more than 150 first grade games, did not escape him.
He has played nearly twice that many over 14 years and his seven reported "major" concussions does not include lesser, dizzying jolts.
You wouldn't even ask this question unless he was so well versed but, like NRL legend Peter Sterling, he will offer up his brain for study at autopsy.
"Sure. I'm sure they won't find much but why not," Polota-Nau said with wry humour.
"If it's for the betterment of the actual topic of CTE but also, living, go for it."
Polota-Nau, 34 on Thursday, has rejoined the Wallabies squad after knee surgery and will be a factor after Saturday night's Test against Argentina at Suncorp Stadium.
Whether lock Adam Coleman (shoulder), prop Scott Sio (adductor) and flyhalf Christian Lealiifano (shoulder) are Test-fit and what role flanker Luke Jones and utility James O'Connor play are big selection topics.
Playing 89 Tests in the front line has taken its toll on Polota-Nau. He is not sure how much despite positive visits to Sydney professor John Watson since 2010.
He first visited to maximise his wellbeing, "keep tabs on any imbalances like more mood swings" and is a test case for the professor's study into multiple football concussions.
"I'm very fortunate with the professor I see every year...I've been quite consistent with previous results," said Polota-Nau, who had his last bad concussion in 2015.
"It may happen later, who knows."
Talking about CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) and brain donation has been a topic.
"Absolutely. I was speaking to my professor about it and he was intrigued about the stuff they're doing through a neurologist collecting brain samples from NFL players," Polota-Nau said.
"It's actually a real injury that people don't understand or aren't wanting to understand because it doesn't look as serious as a broken leg or anything like that.
"It's great that it's being addressed because there's more to life than just playing the game of rugby because guys have families they need to look after too post-rugby."
The England-based Polota-Nau thought the World Cup might be a step too far after his poor four-Test input to last year's Rugby Championship when his stamina was way down.
"I left on a sour note so, from my end, seeing if I've still got it is part of this and it's a World Cup year," he said.
"I thought last year was my last for the Wallabies and all of a sudden my phone rings.
"Little did I know that Michael Cheika had my UK number...I never gave it to him. I didn't want to.
"Sure, I'll come back...one last crack with the new generation of hookers we've been asking for."