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Brain Health

Q&A with CFL Sports Caster Matt Dunigan

Matt Dunigan CFL
Matt Dunigan CFL
Matt Dunigan

Matt Dunigan

Sports Caster, CFL


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Can you share what made you want to donate your brain and how this helps with concussion and CTE research?

I’ve always been a big believer in paying it forward. In fact, I’ve tried to live my life that way for as long as I can remember…no pun intended!

We live in a world now where there’s so much taking when we need more giving. This is just another way to give back. Paying it forward, donating my brain helps the Canadian Sports Concussion Project in hopes that the research they do, which is dependent upon having physical brains to work with, expedites a way to eradicate CTE and brain injury, period.

P.S. Jokingly, I always tell folks that Dr. Charles Tator and Dr. Carmela Tartaglia might as well use it as I have not! 

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What are some major post-concussion symptoms you would want readers to walk away knowing?

There’s no such thing as different grades or degrees of concussions. Brain injury is brain injury and it’s to be taken seriously no matter the severity. When someone is concussed, the brain has been damaged and brain cells have died. Those cells don’t come back. Dr. Charles Tator explained it to me the first time we had lunch together years ago. He said to think of your brain as a beach ball covered in light bulbs and if the beach ball crashes into something those lights go off and never come back on. That’s a simple easy way to visualize how things work with concussions or brain injury. Fortunately, there have been breakthroughs that are allowing people to reverse the effects of brain trauma. 

Think of your brain as a beach ball covered in light bulbs and if the beach ball crashes into something those lights go off and never come back on.

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What is one piece of advice you would give to current professional athletes to take care of their brain and mental health?

One of my close friends and teammates in university, Jimmy Hand, had to leave the game of football due to brain trauma and concussions.

When I asked him about what he was experiencing and how he coped with his symptoms, he encouraged me to challenge my brain the way I would with my body. Jimmy exercised his brain by continuously reading. You have to understand that my friend Jimmy was one of the most gifted minds I had ever been around. One day while he was reading, he said the fog just kind of lifted, so I took heed. 

That was amazing to hear and when I did, it gave me hope. My fog has not lifted to the degree Jimmy’s has, but I continue to challenge my brain through my work. Working with TSN and covering our great Canadian Football game continues to challenge me and has been similar to taking medicine for the past 22 plus years. I consider myself lucky to regularly go on national television and be precise, concise, and clear with my thoughts. Regardless, the challenge is still there, and the process has been lifesaving!

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What are some ways you think organizations can better support their athlete’s brain and mental health?

We no longer are ignorant of the seriousness of brain injury in professional sports. There are no more excuses to categorize brain trauma with the same vernacular we once did. We’re now educated as to the seriousness of all things related to concussion and head trauma.

Organizations need to encourage our youth to raise their hand when they feel like they have a head injury or potential concussion. This was once was a sign of weakness but now it’s a sign of strength. It’s vital for organizations to get in front of their athletes as they’re not in a position to make appropriate decisions once a brain injury is acquired. We must do it for them as the knowledge and protocols are now in place and should be followed at all times.

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