RECORD-BREAKING jockey Michelle Payne has revealed the devastating toll head injuries have had on her life.
And she is praying she remains healthy in later years after opening up on the life-changing impact her concussions have had.
Payne, 37, said she went from feeling on 'top of the world' after her historic Melbourne Cup victory to 'everything just stopping'.
And she recalled in horrifying detail how one concussion left her 'vomiting for days' as depression took hold.
Payne, who became the first woman to win the Melbourne Cup on 100-1 outsider Price of Penzance in 2015, is the second jockey to recently open up on their health battles.
Daniel Pitomac, 42, said his injuries mean now he just sits at home watching TV every day.
Payne said she feels she has recovered from her blows to the head but, like in other sports, worries about consequences of knocks as she gets older.
She said how one concussion meant she was unable to walk without help and had her writhing on the bathroom floor in agony.
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The Australian jockey-turned-TV-presenter said: "After one fall I was so bad that I couldn't walk on my own, I had to write everything down that I had to do each day.
"I was not right, I was really depressed for months.
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"I thought I was never going to be normal again – I knew what normal was, but I knew that I wasn't.
"I fell in a Blue Diamond Prelude and that was one of my worst concussions.
"I was sent home with a fracture to my C2 and in a neck brace and at 2am the next morning I was on the floor of the bathroom and vomiting and shaking and it was really awful.
"My boyfriend and I were both scared about what was going on.
"The next few days I couldn't stop sleeping and that was also a worry because in some concussions you don't wake up. But I couldn't help it.
What is CTE?
CTE, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, refers to a brain degeneration caused by frequent head traumas, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Other elements may play a role, including genetics, but exact factors are yet to be discovered, as reported by the Boston University CTE Center.
CTE is only diagnosed through an autopsy of the brain and is known to be a rather rare disease.
It is most commonly found in athletes, including football players and boxers.
Some symptoms of CTE include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and progressive dementia.
These signs can begin to appear after years or even decades after the last brain trauma.
CTE is commonly associated with those who have served in the military or played professional sports such as football, hockey, and boxing.
One of the most serve cases of CTE that has been found was in Aaron Hernandez who was a former NFL tight end convicted of murdering Odin Lloyd in 2013.
Former San Francisco 49ers cornerback Phillip Adams was also diagnosed with a CTE similar to Hernandez's after he killed six people and then himself in an April 2021 shooting spree.
World Cup-winning England rugby player Steve Thompson announced in 2021 he was suffering with CTE and had early-onset dementia and doesn't remember winning the sport's biggest prize.
"After other concussions, I vomited all day, every day for four days.
"Sometimes making a five-minute journey in the car took 30 minutes to stop to be sick every 50 metres or so before we could move again.
"It ended up with my sister taking me to my doctor and he gave me some strong painkillers.
"That helped but I still vomited and was icing my head because my brain felt so sore as if it was swollen.
"Probably looking back, I think I should have been kept in hospital under supervision for these concussions and that would be the only thing I would say they could probably do better."
Payne says she feels she has recovered from her personal hell – but hopes more is done in future to help those who suffer like she did.
She added: "I have seen in the National Rugby League, as players get older, some of them get really depressed or even suicidal (with concussion related brain impacts).
"I obviously pray that doesn't happen to me with the amount of serious head traumas I had.
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"And I hope at some stage in the future they come with some technology that can help, if that is the case.
"Other than that, I'm very grateful to live well and feel fully recovered and happy."
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