He has pushed the threshold of playing the beautiful game with a broken wrist and toe but Chris Greatholder isn't about to persist after picking up what appeared to be a harmless knock to the head at training a fortnight ago.

"The dark room becomes your friend," says Greatholder, the player/head coach of Building King Havelock North Wanderers competing in the Ultra Football Central League in their debut season.

"It's something I've never experienced before so it's a bit weird and scary so it's not something I wish to mess around with," he says before the Wanderers host Wellington United in round 11 of the league in a 1pm kick-off today.

The 39-year-old got concussed while training at Guthrie Park in the village three Thursdays ago.

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"It was quite an innocuous thing. I was caught with a head in the shoulder. I didn't see it coming," he says of the scrimmage towards the end of the session.

"I saw stars. I was knocked out for about 10 seconds — not long at all."

When he came to on the ground it took Greatholder anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes to figure out where he was, never mind what he was in the middle of.


It came back in dribs and drabs.

"I kind of thought, 'Okay, that guy I know. And that guy over there. Oh, I'm at football training in Havelock North.'

"It was a kind of picture of events that came back pretty quickly."

That night he went to his Havelock North home but struggled to fall asleep.

He went to work in Hastings the next morning but felt "wobbly".

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"I was never good enough to be at work. There was slur in my speech."

That scared Greatholder a little so he made an appointment with a GP straightaway. There was no escaping the diagnosis — a mild concussion.

"Almost immediately the doctor gave me the dos and don'ts and how critical things are in the first 48 hours."

The GP advised him to return the same time a week later if his symptoms remained.

"The word was from now on avoid out cold, don't drive or as little as you can and limit my screen time ... no gadgets, no tablets, no TV," after the civil servant revealed he was workstation bound.

Since then Greatholder has been working four hours a day, from 10am to 2pm. He has generally been feeling quite lethargic afterwards but a few days he felt like he could carry on.

In the first 48 hours, the self-isolation in a dark room still required dealing with dizzy spells, shafts of white light on one side of the brain and nausea.

He has booked to see a concussion specialist who intends to conduct a few tests.

Greatholder has resisted the temptation to train although he has managed to discreetly watch brief spells as well as last weekend's league and Chatham Cup double headers at Guthrie Park from his car in a distance.

"I haven't been physically training. I've obviously had the weekend off quietly to myself although I watched both games in my reserved way," he says, lauding co-assistant coaches Dion Adams and Bruce Barclay for doing a great job.

He was heartbroken not to be at the helm of the junior boys' tournament at Park Island, Napier, at the weekend.

Chris Greatholder says concussion leaves you in a dark room. Photo / Warren Buckland
Chris Greatholder says concussion leaves you in a dark room. Photo / Warren Buckland

The central midfielder is hoping the symptoms of a mild concussion will dissipate and he'll be back on the park soon.

"I'm also aware these things can drift along and if you don't do the right things earlier on then you could be left with ... "

Greatholder only days before the knock to the head had played through a broken toe with cortisone injections but you won't catch him treating concussion with any false sense of bravado.

"I've played through a lot of pain, more so than other players.
"I've been crook or injured but, no matter, I've always taken the field."

He suspects his "maturity, experience or old, if you want to call me" hasn't allowed him to entertain any foolish notions of carry on anytime soon.

"I suppose it's because it is the unknown. There's no physical thing ... I've got a dull head at the moment but it's not physical pain so it's not something I know how to control.

"It's just the more experienced you get the more you get to know your body as to whether you want to play through pain or not."

How his mind will react when it comes to 50-50 aerial battles or simply heading a ball that may make him susceptible to another head knock is something he will wait for in anticipation.

It's not that Greatholder intends to run on to the park without 100 per cent commitment to the Wanderers.

However, he can only reflect on how he responded in his first training back after breaking a leg two years ago.

"I pulled out of a tackle because I was very aware of my leg maybe not being as strong. It was an instinct thing because I didn't go into training thinking if I get into a 50-50 tackle I'll pull out.

"I saw the danger, I guess, and my brain told my body, 'Don't do that', so I don't know if I'm not going to be playing again."

Greatholder believes he's collected worse knocks in his playing career from stray elbows or kicks to the noggin but the last one was relatively of feather duster proportions.

"It just caught me off guard. I don't know whether it was in the temporal region and if it caught me just on the right spot or what but, anyway, I've never been knocked out before."

He is mindful footballers at their prime have reservations about talking of concussion, getting off the park or seeking medical advice due to the pressures of a competitive arena but he urges them to consult specialists immediately.

"Even at a cautionary level, I think you should go to your GP to be checked over. You've got to be brave and strong although in the early stages of one's career I suppose making that decision messes with your brains a little.

"It's a no-brainer, excuse the pun. I'm not trying to win contracts or to prove anything to anybody so it's easy for me to do that now - to take a step back now."

Greatholder says it helps that he has a supportive workplace as well as an adept and able coaching stable to step up to take the pressure off him.

"I say speak to whoever your influences are but also speak to your mum and dad, your colleagues, listen to your workplace and stop playing immediately on the park."

England-born Greatholder, who has been playing the game since he could walk, accepts even he is guilty of urging players to pick themselves up off the park to carry on at the height of battle as a player and coach.

"You don't really know the severity of things so it's a bit like mental health stuff so these kinds of things get pushed under the carpet a little bit until you educate people who start to understand."

He feels there's a different kind of awareness now of what transpires in concussion-type injuries behind the scenes.

Greatholder says the effects can weigh on the mind of other people close to the victims.

He considers himself lucky to have had the network of support to drive him to work but accepts not everyone is blessed with that sort of back-up in a time of need.

"It can lead to people taking risks because they don't have that kind of support so it shows how critical the first few weeks can be for this kind of thing. You've just got to do the right thing.

"The brain is too precious. You think there are other things that are more important in life and I can tell you they aren't."

Sport, says Greatholder, is important but also it's just a game.

Former Napier Marist player Josh Murphy, who started the Central League season with Miramar Rangers this winter, has crossed the floor to the Wanderers and may clock some game time for the last-placed team today.

The 18-year-old former Napier Boys' High School pupil is pursuing a commerce degree at Victoria University in Wellington but, after mid-semester exams, he intends to enrol with Massey University to continue his course via correspondence from Napier.