How concussions drove rising footy star to the brink of taking his own life – and the new sport aiding his recovery
- Brendan Verrier was once a promising AFL player
- Ignored concussion symptoms, could have been fatal
- Battled suicidal thoughts, ultra-marathons his new focus
- If you need support, contact Lifeline 13 11 14, or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636
Brendan Verrier was on course to achieve his dream of becoming an AFL star when his world came crashing down in 2017.
A vicious slung tackle late in a game when turning out for the South Fremantle Bulldogs in Western Australia changed everything.
But rather than acknowledge he was seriously concussed, Verrier – a talented midfielder – kept chasing a Sherrin over the coming weeks as footy was ‘his identity.’
And before Verrier realised it, the damage had been done.
Verrier had Second Impact Syndrome, which occurs when another head injury is sustained before the first concussion has healed.
Brendan Verrier was on course to achieve his dream of becoming an AFL star when his world came crashing down in 2017
Verrier eventually found salvation in ultra-marathon running, and now graces picturesque trails in Alice Springs (pictured)
Increased brain swelling followed – and with persistent vertigo, dizziness and unsteadiness, he was eventually diagnosed with vestibular disorder.
Dark thoughts – including suicide – entered Verrier’s headspace, and he knew he needed a new life passion.
A move to Alice Springs in January last year, after accepting a job at Yirara College, an Aboriginal boarding school, was the fresh start Verrier needed in life.
It was also a venue offering plentiful running trails – namely in the West MacDonnell Ranges.
It has proven to be Verrier’s salvation.
‘I remember the first time I went on the trails, I just felt, like, this beauty in these mystical, magical ranges that we have out in the desert,’ he told the ABC.
‘It grabbed me straight away, and it felt like I was truly myself when I was running on these trails.
Brendan Verrier ignored concussion symptoms from playing AFL that quickly sent him down a dark path
Verrier contemplated suicide before thankfully finding his new life passion – trail running
‘It felt like me, it felt like I was Brendan again, after not being myself for four years while dealing with my brain injury and my mental health struggles.’
Verrier has proven to be anything but a novice in what is a brutal sport, both physically and mentally.
In May, he won the West Macs Monster 65-kilometre ultra-marathon event, blitzing the course record by 25 minutes.
‘I still want to test my mind and body and see where this takes me,’ he said.
‘The longer you’re out there, the tougher it gets, but I’ve been through tough things before in my life.’
For confidential crisis support call:
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636