NRL legend Paul Green had an advanced brain disease at the time of his death, doctors have revealed, as his heartbroken family say the diagnosis has given them some ‘peace’.
Green, who was found dead at his home in Brisbane on August 11 after taking his own life, had been suffering from an advanced form of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).
CTE is a neurodegenerative disease that can affect athletes who endure repeated concussions and head knocks during their careers in contact sports such as rugby league, combat sports and American football.
The shocking diagnosis only came after his widow Amanda agreed to donate her 49-year-old husband’s brain.
She gave permission for Professor Michael Buckland from the Australian Sports Brain Bank to study Green’s brain and last week received a call with the results, The Australian reports.
Professor Buckland said he had discovered one of the most ‘severe forms of pure CTE’ he had seen in Green’s brain – a condition that can only be confirmed post-mortem.
The family of fallen NRL legend Paul Green has found some comfort after they were told that he was suffering from an advanced form of CTE at the time of his death
Experts believe CTE, a term used to describe brain degeneration, can cause impulsive behaviour, difficulty thinking and severe mood problems.
Initial symptoms can include confusion, disorientation and headaches with more progressive side-effects including dementia, vertigo and tremors.
Ms Green said the diagnosis has given her daughter Emerson, 13, and son Jed, 10, some ‘peace’ and ‘relief’.
‘I was able to sit Jed down and explain: ‘Daddy’s brain was sick, that’s why he did what he did,’ Ms Green said.
She was able to give Emerson an explanation that makes more sense than what was being repeated – that he took his life because of depression.
‘She now understands that he wasn’t in that space and there’s nothing we could have done, because he was sick.’
Green had a glittering career in rugby league but was privately suffering mental health issues. He is pictured here playing for the Sydney Roosters in February, 2001
CTE is a progressive brain condition in athletes who suffered repeated concussions and head knocks during their careers in sports such as league, combat sports and American football (pictured, Paul Green in 2015 during a stint as coach of the North Queensland Cowboys)
What is CTE?
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is is a progressive brain condition.
It is thought to be caused by repeated blows to the head and repeated episodes of concussion.
CTE is particularly associated with contact sports, such as league, combat sports and American football.
Most of the available studies are based on ex-athletes.
But shockingly it is also found in people with military background and people who have suffered repeated episodes of domestic violence.
Many see CTE as a more widely understood version of an age-old condition known as ‘punch-drunk syndrome’.
AFL legend Danny Frawley was found to have been suffering from stage-two CTE before he took his own life in 2019.
After Green died it was revealed he had been privately struggling with mental health issues for almost two decades.
But at the time his shattered parents Patricia, 82, and Ned, 94, struggled to make sense of their son taking his own life.
Patricia said he had seemed fine the day before his death.
‘Paul was a man of faith. He wasn’t loud about it, but I knew he had faith and I couldn’t believe he would do it (take his life)… it is against his beliefs. It is so hard to accept,’ Patricia told the Courier Mail.
‘We had only seen Paul at his place the night before (at his son Jed’s ninth birthday party)… there was nothing untoward. Paul was the same Paul he has always been.
‘We have cried ourselves out. There are no tears left.’
Green’s sudden death rocked rugby league, as players and coaches implored others to speak up about mental health.
His former Sharks and Queensland teammate, Craig Greenhill, said his great mate had first revealed details of his battles with mental health ’18 years ago’ – which was around the time Green retired from playing rugby league.
He believes, however, that Green wasn’t getting the help he needed.
‘I don’t think he was being treated properly. It scares me to think what was going through his head,’ Greenhill told the Courier Mail.
Craig Greenhill (second from left) said his close mate Paul Green (third from left) had shown signs of struggling at a recent catch-up
Paul Green hugs Queensland half Daly Cherry-Evans after the Maroons won game three of the 2021 State of Origin series
For help in a crisis call 000. If you or anyone you know needs support, you can contact Lifeline 13 11 14, or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.
Paul Green’s career in rugby league
- Played 162 first grade games
- Moved from Brisbane to join Cronulla in 1994, played 95 games for the Sharks
- Joined the Cowboys in 1999, chalked up 35 appearances
- Signed with the Roosters where he played 20 games from 2001-2002
- Joined Parramatta in 2003 playing seven matches
- Finished his career at the Broncos with five games
- Represented Queensland in seven Origin games
- Represented Australia and Queensland in the Super League in late 1990s
- Head coach of the North Queensland Cowboys for 167 games (2014-2020), winning a premiership in 2015
- Head coach of Queensland in 2021 State of Origin series