Riki Hoeata, 28, suffered a concussion that ended his rugby playing career playing in the NPC. Find out how he turned that around and launched his own business, and read some good common sense advice he’s got to share about recognising and dealing with concussion.
“It happened during a training session and I got a head knock during a tackling drill. I made the tackle and as I was getting off the ground, I got a knee to the back of my head from a player coming in to clean out. I wasn’t unconscious but I was extremely dazed. I recall someone asking me if I was all right. I said yes but I pulled myself out for the rest of training that day knowing something wasn’t right. However, I didn’t realise the severity of the head knock and continued training and playing for the remainder of the season. I put pressure on myself to perform after coming back from a broken arm that season and I didn’t want this kind of thing to play a part in not getting selected for the starting line-up.
I definitely didn’t look after myself properly afterwards. In hindsight, I should’ve pulled myself out of rugby immediately, but I feel a part of my brain was hindered so I was making bad decisions. I kept thinking it was going to come right. The more I think about, the more I understand the connection between a brain injury and my decision-making processes. For someone who was well educated about the symptoms of a concussion and how to deal with it, I wasn’t thinking rationally. This is why it’s so important to have people around you who can pick up on signs of a concussion.
I vividly remember days feeling engulfed in a fog, feeling in a daze and unable to concentrate. I remember feeling lost and slow and my processing speed was horrendous. I would stay away from any socialising and I would be so tired that I would sleep every chance I got which was extremely uncharacteristic.
After the season, I stopped doing all physical activity and returned to my off-season job as an upholsterer, hoping that the symptoms would disappear, but they didn’t. I found that bright lights and crowds would over-stimulate my brain, so I stayed away from supermarkets and shopping malls, and stopped watching TV and limited my screen time and maximised my sleeping time. I also would wear sunglasses both outdoors and indoors to try and minimise the light. I would have trouble communicating, stuttering and missing words in sentences.
After stopping rugby and all physical activity, the symptoms were still severe and I couldn’t continue in my job. It has been over a year now and I still have a lot of symptoms today and haven’t been able to return to moderate exercise, so returning to rugby is out of the question.
Having my rugby dream stripped away isn’t an easy pill to swallow, but as they say, everything happens for a reason. It gave me the drive to turn my business idea into a reality. I launched CRAFT SMOOTHIE a few months ago and it’s going really well.
When I was playing professional rugby, homemade smoothies were the most convenient and nutritious way to fuel up. Now I’m running my own business delivering everything you need to whip them up at home. I designed the logo, had input in the packaging design, and I’ve developed the recipes myself. It feels good to get people excited about their nutrition each week.
I still feel fatigued and have issues with concentration and communication – anything that requires any sort of processing seems a lot slower. The headaches can still be bad and I struggle being around big groups of people or in busy settings. The challenge for me now is trying to introduce light exercise without overdoing it. I’ve had a lot of conflicting advice and people don’t really know how you feel, so it’s important to listen to your body and take it easy. I’ve learnt what my limits are and how to judge them. Sometimes you just have to go and lie down and rest if you feel symptoms coming on.
If you’re working through a concussion, remember you’re not alone. At any one time, there will always be someone going through something similar, or someone who has been through it before who is willing to talk with you. They will only be too happy to talk about it and share what’s helped them, or what’s worked for them in getting through it.
If you’re not feeling right after a knock to the head, talk to people about how you’re feeling. I knew everything about concussion, I knew all the symptoms and what you should do, but I still didn’t recognise that I had a concussion. If you don’t think you feel right, ask others if they’ve noticed you behaving differently. If you even suspect that you’ve had a knock to the head, pull yourself out. Don’t treat it like any other injury. A brain injury is hard to see, so it’s easy to brush off. Don’t.”
Thanks for sharing your story Riki.
For more information on concussion, how to recognise it, and how to treat it, visit the CONCUSSION section of our website.