Australia’s first female Olympic cyclist Julie Speight donating brain for medical research

Women’s sport trendsetter Julie Speight understands success at the elite level relies as much on psychological perseverance as it does on physical strength.

Yet the lady who ended up being Australia’s first female Olympic cyclist in 1988 now frets insufficient attention is paid to the toll biking handles the brains of professional athletes like her.

The previous Olympian has actually assured to contribute her brain to medical research, understanding it might one day result in a medical diagnosis of the degenerative condition persistent terrible encephalopathy (CTE), which is considered a growing epidemic amongst professional athletes.

It is a condition frequently connected to heavy-contact sports like rugby, rugby league and Australian Rules football.

But specialists alert biking is among the most harmful activities when it concerns the sort of long-lasting brain damage now being discovered to affect a lot of previous professional athletes as they age.

“I raced a whole season in America with double vision — really serious concussion — and that was a normal thing to do,” Speight informed the ABC’s PM program.

“I might have been tough when I was 21 and in my 30s, but once you turn 50 your brain has just said, ‘Remember all those head knocks you had? Now we’re going to come back and bite you with them.'”

Speight states she thinks concussions throughout her profession lag the signs she is still experiencing today.(



Now aged 54, the champ cyclist stated she struggled with a variety of signs common for professional athletes suffering the long-lasting impacts of brain injuries throughout their sporting professions.

“[I have trouble] finding words when put on the spot,” she stated.

“I’ve lost my hearing. We don’t know why.

“[I have] great deals of balance problems, which is bothersome for a cyclist. A great deal of mysterious problems with memory, consistent headaches.”

But CTE can impact lovers in addition to first-rate experts like Speight.

Helmets inadequate to secure versus CTE, cautions professional

Reider Lystad, an injury epidemiologist at the Australian Institute of Health Innovation at Sydney Macquarie University, said cycling was among the highest-risk sporting activities for concussion and potentially for CTE.

“Cycling and brain injury go together,” he said.

“It [brain injury] is an enormous concern throughout the contact in accident sports, however in biking in specific.”

He said the risk was not due to cyclists failing to wear helmets.

“I believe part of the factor for that is the bike helmets are not really created to avoid concussions and small brain injuries in the first location,” Dr Lystad said.

“They’re more created to avoid skull fractures and the enormous head injuries.”

CTE is thought to be caused by repetitive, sometimes minor, concussions and blows to the head.

Last week there was controversy in the world of competitive cycling when, during the second stage of the Paris Nice road race, New Zealander George Bennett fell at a dangerous choke point in the race, striking the back of his head.


Despite a glassy stare and a helmet that was cracked into two pieces, he resumed racing, leaving commentators incredulous.

Race rules dictate fallen riders need a doctor’s all-clear before resuming, but in a later interview the rider himself insisted he had felt fine.

But Dr Lystad believes athletes simply do not realise how much damage a heavy knock to the head can do.

“We do not require clients to be experiencing this enormous head injury with intracranial bleeding and all that type of things,” he said.

“It appears to be enough to have so-called small head injuries, concussions and so on, which does not always lead to any sort of brain bleeds or anything like that, however simply a more tiny type of injury within the brain tissue itself.”

Commuter still having a hard time after accident

Three years ago, Canberra public servant Sean Ladlow jumped on his bike to ride the five-minute journey to his local gym.

“I keep in mind reaching the pathway outside our house and after that the next thing I keep in mind is awakening in Canberra Hospital, most likely the next day, I think,” he stated.

Sean Ladlow standing in his garden wearing a brown jumper, smiling.
Sean Ladlow remained in a bike mishap simply as he left house on his method to a regional health club.(



The recreational cyclist had come a cropper just a short distance from his home and sustained serious head injuries.

“I fractured my skull on the left side and I think the fracture went through the ear canal and I needed to breaks — 2 injuries to my brain, one on the front left location and one on the left location sort of above my ear.

“I think it was a severe concussion.”

After the crash, Mr Ladlow knowledgeable signs from the concussion. But there’s no tip he experiences CTE.

“If I can sum them up in symptoms, it was a mixture of migraine, dizziness, nausea, short-term memory loss issues, communicating with people, issues with noise and bright lights and particularly issues with making decisions,” he stated.

“And along with all of that went, I guess you could call it confusion and emotional issues overall.”

Mr Ladlow is sorry for not using a helmet that day.

While his experience is not an example of CTE, it does demonstrate how daily commuters, in addition to racing experts, require to be careful about blows to the head.

Speight stated awareness about the threats concussions presented was just starting to spread out amongst bicyclists.

“We’re just scratching the surface of looking at how many cyclists, especially from my era, have traumatic brain injury and post-concussion issues from the helmets we wore, the helmets we didn’t wear, when we were training and how quickly we just got back on the bike and kept training and kept racing,” she stated.

“Medical people say, ‘How long have you had a headache?’ And I say, ‘Well, since my last crash in ’96.”

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