The Courier-Mail

Pain must bring change


TWO big hits changed Sarah McCarthy’s life forever.

The first collision happened five years ago, during a brutal training drill that saw the Sydney Roller Derby star’s chin strike her teammate’s helmet.

McCarthy hit the deck, blacked out briefly and got up to finish the session – her team was preparing for a grand final, after all.

Days later, during the final, McCarthy then copped an elbow to the neck and found herself once again dazed and on the floor.

For somebody who’d suffered two concussion­s within one week, the skater felt surprising­ly fine – maybe slightly off, but not unwell enough to skip any training sessions.

Three days after the big final, McCarthy was sitting at her office desk when everything fell apart.

“I was just sending an email. All of a sudden, my ears started ringing. My body felt really heavy, I felt pain, I felt sick, my fingers were tingling, I couldn‘t hear properly … I headed straight home,” McCarthy (pictured) said.

“It feels like you are dying, it’s every sense that you have is out of whack. You can’t think straight, you’re not sure if you’re awake or asleep, your memory is off, you feel nauseous, and it got worse from there.”

McCarthy’s memory of the next three months is patchy at best.

“I had a couple of CAT scans, got checked for major brain bleeds, went to a neurologis­t, went to a few GPs. Everyone just shrugged their shoulders and said sometimes this happens just to give it time” McCarthy recalled.

She also struggled to continue with her usual routine of full time work and training five days per week – symptoms got so bad that she often left the office at lunchtime.

“I remember being on the train just crying, covering my eyes because the light and the sound was too much, not even being able to get home by myself,” McCarthy said.

“Thinking about planning, scheduling, finance and budget, I was completely incapable of doing that with concussion, my brain had completely switched off.”

Symptoms worsened over the years and at one point doctors tested McCarthy for Multiple Sclerosis.

“I was having these waking fits, I had to stop everything for nine months, I stopped working and stayed at home” McCarthy said.

Eventually, the jammer was diagnosed with Post Concussion Syndrome (PCS) in 2019 – three years after those big hits.

Five years after her concussion­s, McCarthy is still battling symptoms. and she is now sharing her story to break the misconcept­ion that concussion is an issue exclusive to male athletes and football codes.

McCarthy will feature in tonight’s episode of The Feed titled Female Concussion­s airing at 10pm on SBS and SBS On Demand.


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