Dom Penny is a retired semi-pro Australian football player & amateur boxer who is diagnosed with early onset dementia and possible Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. Today, he helps others facing the same issues by telling his story and encouraging athletes to speak out and seek treatment. Hel also hosts fundraisers to augment CTE research and advocacy in Western Australia.
Dom started to show the symptoms for his ailments in the mid of 2015. Initially these symptoms were mild and easy to ignore, but by the end of the year, he began to have suicidal thoughts. These were not intense at first but turned into deep depression and it then that Dom started to feel something was amiss.
It was clear to him from the day he knew his issues that they could strongly stem from his career as a semi-pro rugby player andamateurboxer. Both are high contact sports where head injuries are common which is why most athletesget concussions. Thus, it was natural for Dom to visit a professional which he did. He went to a psychologist and psychiatrist after that he started medication for depression, anxiety and anger issues. He knew many fellow players and international athletes that suffered from mental illness because of head trauma.
After his mental health suffered greatly, he retiredfrom both the professionals andfocused his energy on raising awareness regarding Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy and how head injuries lead to concussions and cause life-long problems if athletes, team managers and coaches neglect them.
Dom remember sustaining at least 11 concussions throughout his career and getting thousands of sub-concussive hits. It is not unusualsince he played rugby from the age of 8 years and started boxing from the age of 10. He does have regrets when it comes to career choices because he was good at body building and martial arts. He says that when he was young, people didn’t know about the consequences of head trauma and didn’t talk about mental issues as openly as they do now.
It wasn’t until 2019 that he started to notice cognitive issues and short-term memory loss. It scared him and his doctor asked him to take several memory tests. It was after the tests, his worst fear was confirmed at he was suffering from early onset dementia and possible Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.
After checking into a mental health facility and getting treatments and medications today Dom feels much better than he did from 2015-20. But he still struggles in daily life. He remains positive and ensures he is exercising, taking medicines etc. to keep his life on track.
Dom says he knew about concussions and that they could be a serious problem for athletes like him, but it was easier to ignore when everything was good. But, the symptomsdeveloped later and it is hard to live with them.
Like Dom there are many athletes that suffer from early Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy and other mental issues because of head trauma they suffered during their careers. Thus, raising awareness about concussions and its consequences is crucial.