By Gavin Mackenzie
Tim Clarke had part of his life flash before his eyes as he regained consciousness after a violent mid-air collision during a game at Varsity Stadium almost two weeks ago.
Clarke, the three-year captain of the Ryerson men’s soccer team, was injured when he collided head-on with a University of Toronto Varsity Blues forward while the pair were challenging for the ball.
“People say when they’re dying they see flashes of their life. I saw pictures of the last three days of my life,” he said. “My eyes were open but that’s what I saw.”
The back of the Blues’ player’s head cracked Clarke’s forehead, sending him to the ground writhing in pain. He was rushed to hospital, where he was diagnosed with having suffered a severe concussion.
It was his fifth in seven years.
The injury forced the 23-year-old electrical engineering student to retire from competitive soccer.
“The look on my mother’s face told me it was time to stop,” he said.
Clarke still suffers intermittent mild post-concussion effects and has an MRI coming up to determine the extent of his injury. He still remembers very little of what happened after the collision.
He suffered his first major concussion after being elbowed in the temple during a soccer match when he was 17. He suffered three more minor concussion prior to his career-ending collision two weeks ago.
Clarke admits retiring will be hard to cope with, but he understands his health is his top priority.
“My dad said it isn’t worth [playing], you can graduate and get a good job,” he said. “You don’t want to be in a situation where you can’t count or slur your speech.”
Stuart Miller, in his seventh year as head coach, considers Clarke one of the most dominant soccer players in Rams’ history.
Rams assistant coach, Jimmy O’Hare, attributes Clarke’s problems with concussions to his aggressiveness.
“He’s one of the bravest players I’ve ever seen unfortunately that’s probably what has got him into the condition he’s in,” he said. “I’ve never seen him back out of a tackle of any kind.”
Clarke says being team captain for three years has meant a lot to him. “When you have the trust of teammates it feels good, it feels good knowing you have guys who are intelligent looking to you to guide them,” he said of his teammates, with whom he has developed a family-like relationship with over his five-year career.
Clarke will never play competitive soccer again, but he refuses to walk away from the team he’s poured his heart into.
He plans to stay with the team for the remainder of the season and help out wherever he can. He also said he’s interested in taking on a coaching position with the Rams next year.