A former rugby league star is trialling a radical treatment for a concussion-related illness as his health deteriorates.

Former Parramatta and Gold Coast star Brett Horsnell is trialling a radical treatment from America used to treat NFL players struggling with the after-effects of concussion after being knocked out a staggering 51 times in his career.

A tough back-rower who played for 10 seasons in rugby league’s top grade, Horsnell turned 50 last year but his life is in ruins after the repeated head knocks.

“I get headaches, I can’t do running writing, I have vertigo so bad that I can’t shower because I would fall over,” he told Wide World of Sports.

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“I’m losing the eyesight in one eye… I have depression big time, and short term memory loss – every day I forget where I left my keys. I can’t work so I’m on disability.

“I know a lot of blokes my vintage with similar problems… although maybe not as severe. Most are in denial and just dealing with it with drugs and alcohol.

“I’ve been to a bunch of doctors – they tell me the same thing – it’s not multiple sclerosis, or Alzheimer’s, or dementia.

“That only leaves one thing – the after-effects of all the head knocks I took back in the ’80s and ’90s.

“Back then, you would be out cold on the grass, they would put smelling salts under your nose to wake you and say ‘Get back out there’.

“We didn’t know any better.”

Around six months ago Horsnell, who lives on the Gold Coast, heard about a doctor using radiation treatment to treat head trauma on the Sunshine Coast.

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“I was at the stage where I was ready to try anything,” he said.

“It involves red light therapy and has achieved good results with NFL players in America, where it is a big problem for blokes my age.

“I’ve been noticing a slight improvement but suffered a setback recently. A drunk driver wrote off my car and I am struggling to get up to the Sunshine Coast for the therapy.

“Someone started a charity thing online to raise money to buy me a new car – it’s nice to be remembered.”

And how does Horsnell know he had exactly 51 concussions?

“My mum has every game I played on old VHS tapes,” he explained. “We went through the games one week and counted them up… it was scary.

“And then you add to that all the blows that didn’t knock me out but also had an effect on me – I hope modern day players are taken better care of.”

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Horsnell launched a lawsuit against the NRL in the mid 2010s, but dropped it as his legal costs mounted and the case became more and more complicated.

“I don’t want to make money out of this,” he said. “I just want some kind of quality of life back.”

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