John Tynan taking a strong mark for Frankston. Picture: Adam Elwood
Concussion has taken a heavy toll on former AFL player Josh Tynan
Paul Amy, Leader
December 20, 2018 12:00am
For two years, football has been a school of hard knocks for Josh Tynan.
He has learnt a lot about concussion. Even before it led to a break in his career the former Melbourne player well knew of its devastating repercussions.
Blurred vision. Grogginess. Headaches. A slight sensitivity to light. A general sluggishness that made him feel like he needed three strong coffees to get going.
It threatened to end a career that took in an AFL debut for the Demons in his first year out of the TAC Cup, aged 18.
But, taking inspiration from Liam Picken and others who have battled concussion, Tynan, 25, is intent on playing again next year, in the VFL.
He’s spoken to Essendon about a possible role. And he’s spoken about his experience in the hope it helps others going through the same thing.
After taking a big hit against Richmond in Round 1 this year, Tynan received blunt medical advice to stop playing for Port Melbourne.
Reluctantly, he did. Seven months on Tynan is confident he has no lingering medical problems associated with concussion but he will consult a specialist he began seeing this year.
“I don’t know how that’s going to go but hopefully I’ll be OK to give VFL footy another crack,’’ he said.
“It might be a slow process but I’ll chip away and hopefully get my way back to playing good footy without any of these issues.’’
Josh Tynan is eager to resume playing football after a series of concussions.
Tynan copped a big hit in a marking contest against Richmond in the last quarter, a Tiger player’s shoulder collecting his face.
When he got back to his feet, his vision was blurred. He knew what was going to follow in the next few days — lethargy, headaches — because he had experienced it before, a few times. Even talking to people was difficult; he felt awkward “because I knew I was a bit slower for a couple of days’’.
“That was probably the last straw for me,’’ he said.
In his previous season at Port, Tynan had similar symptoms “seven or eight’’ times. He didn’t take any particularly big bumps, but enough contact to make him feel unwell.
“A solid tackle or a bump to the side and I’d jolt my head a little bit and that was enough to set it off,’’ he said. “I knew instantly I was going to have problems for the next couple of days. That’s what scared me. It wasn’t the big knocks causing it. It was the little ones, adding up.’’
But he kept it to himself until the end of the season, when he made contact with the AFL Players’ Association.
Melbourne players Stefan Martin, Josh Tynan, Brent Moloney, Nathan Jones, Jack Grimes, Jack Trengove and coach Mark Neeld during the national anthem. It was Tynan’s debut for the Demons in Round 1, 2012.
Tynan also spoke to a doctor attached to an AFL club and, later, a chiropractor who specialises in concussion. Tynan underwent tests and ahead of the 2018 season was told he should take a spell from the game.
Why didn’t he?
“It was too hard a decision to make. In the end I made it too late. I put it off and hoped for the best,’’ Tynan said.
“But after that (the concussion against Richmond) it was time. I knew the next few days weren’t going to be great. I’d been there before …. get a cloudy feeling, sort of a slowness, reaction time noticeably off.
“I got on to (the AFL doctor). I went and saw him and did a few tests and he was the one who made the call for me. He gave me a few weeks off work and told me not to play footy for the rest of the year. He put it along the lines that, ‘Footy’s not your life’. It put it into perspective I guess. My girlfriend was saying the same, because she was seeing the symptoms and having to deal with it.’’
The chiropractor had said he wouldn’t treat Tynan unless he stopped playing. He became a patient after the Richmond game.
“He said he wasn’t surprised to see me,’’ Tynan said.
“He worked out my vision was out. If I turned to my right, my eyes would flicker. That impacted my balance and spatial awareness. I ended up doing four months of work with him, doing a lot of eye tracking and reaction-time stuff.’’
Josh Tynan on the training track with Melbourne.
Tynan, drafted from Gippsland Power, first suffered concussion in his first year at Melbourne, 2012, in a VFL match. He sat on the sidelines for four weeks.
Delisted from the Demons after two years, he joined Frankston and played two seasons as a Dolphin without incident.
Crossing to Port to play with his brother Luke, he took a heavy knock halfway through the 2016 season.
He came off, but played the next week, shrugging off the grogginess that lasted two or three days.
But it became a problem in 2017. He missed no games but he was quick to get the wobbles.
“I was getting pretty worried near the end of the year,’’ he said. “Any knock was setting me off.’’
Tests “raised red flags’’, he said, and he was eventually told to step away. It took the knock in Round 1 this year for Tynan to take the advice.
He struggled without football. Acting as a runner for coach Gary Ayres late in the season kept him involved at the Borough, but it wasn’t the same. “I just love playing football,’’ he said. “It’s such a massive part of my life. Training three nights a week, playing on the weekends. I couldn’t imagine not being able to play.’’
Josh Tynan during his second season with the Dees.
Tynan has followed the progress of Picken and Angus Brayshaw, taking heart that the Western Bulldogs is back training after missing the 2018 season and that Brayshaw made a strong return to the Melbourne team this year.
“You look at them and other players in the AFL and they’ve dealt with it and put it behind them,’’ he said. “Stories like that give you a bit of motivation.’’
Tynan is from Garfield, which has produced a string of league footballers, including the legendary VFA goalkicker Frosty Miller. Tynan joined the roll-call in 2012 when he played in Round 1 against Brisbane, the Dees apparently taken by some of his marking in the practice matches.
He got one more AFL game late in the season, none the next year and then he was gone.
“It came and went pretty quickly,’’ Tynan said.
“Played Round 1. That was a buzz. Probably expected to do it every week,’’ he said. “But my next game was the last game of the year against Freo over there. I came on as the sub and played the last quarter. That was it. Hard to say what happened. Maybe I didn’t quite take the opportunities when I did get them, and Melbourne were at the stage where they were turning over the list. I think my whole draft year was gone within two years, Rory Taggert, James Magner, Jai Sheahan …
“But the good thing is I’m only 25. For all that I’ve been through in the last couple of years I still think my best footy is ahead of me.’’
A few days after the interview with Leader, Tynan sent a text message saying he hoped any article would be useful to other players suffering concussion-related episodes.
For him, acceptance was a “serious issue; stepping away from footy was the hardest things to do’’.
“Accepting there is something wrong, not knowing who to turn to at the club or where to seek help was daunting.
“Brain-related injuries from sport are serious and the support, although not highlighted or spoken about, is there and should be sought out if needed.’’