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For Hartley, the out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach has worked until this point. However, the subject has been impossible to ignore. Together with Dubai-based Aviv Clinics, who treat traumatic brain injuries, he booked himself in for an assessment which included multiple scans and tests. Now he is ready to embark on three months of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, spending hours in a pressurised chamber, to see if it will combat the impacts of his rugby career.
‘These guys pursuing the group action have made me have a look at myself and realise that I need to be proactive about my brain and my health,’ he says. ‘I know I’ve had some knocks on my head and now I’m doing my rehab so I’m in the best possible place in 10 years’ time. I wouldn’t call it fear, I’d call it awareness. The reason I refused to have my brain scanned until this month is because, deep down, I didn’t want to know. If I’m told my brain’s damaged — and I’ve had brain injuries so there probably is some damage — then all I can do is be proactive and focus on all those good things that I’ve talked about.
‘I’ve been working with Aviv Clinics, eight minutes from my doorstep here in Dubai. They scanned my brain with an MRI and a SPECT, where you go into the hospital and they inject low-level radiation. I’ve had two comprehensive scans of my brain. It’s the MOT that I needed. It would be nice to have something to compare it to, like a scan from when I was 18 years old to provide a base level.
‘I’m committed to this hyperbaric therapy program to see if we can show positive results in terms of brain health. I’d love to provide hope and a solution for people.
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