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Picken Kicks a Goal (file photo)

In mid-March, Melbourne law firm Margalit Injury Lawyers filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of over 60 former players, seeking compensation for the concussions they suffered during their careers and the resultant post-concussion issues they have suffered since. The players include former premiership player Max Rooke (Geelong), Shaun Smith (Melbourne), Liam Picken (Western Bulldogs) and Darren Jarman (Adelaide and Hawthorn). The widow of the late Shane Tuck has also signed on in the suit. Smith previously won a million dollar plus insurance payout due the concussions he suffered.

Outside the court, the firm's leading lawyer Michel Margalit said the firm was seeking about AUD$ 2 million (US$1.35 million) plus medical expenses per player. Margalit said it could cost the AFL close to 1 billion $AUD (US$666 million).She said it was not about "bringing down the AFL", but getting the compensation for the players, Rooke played 135 games for the Cats 2001-2010 and is the lead plaintiff. He, like many of the others sustained permanent and life-altering injuries as a result of concussion-related injuries and because of the AFL’s negligence. Margalit said, “Their careers are finished and years later they find these concussion-related injuries creeping in and affecting their ability to work, their ability to have a happy family life."

It was recently revealed that former Western Bulldogs premiership star Liam Picken was suing the league and his former club over ongoing health issues linked to multiple concussions suffered during his career. In the suit, Picken alleges he was allowed to keep playing even though he repeatedly flagged concerns about concussion symptoms. It is also alleged the Bulldogs let him play on, despite Picken having returned below-average cognitive test results as early as 2014. The men are not the only ones filing court action. Former Collingwood AFLW player Emma Grant has taken legal action against the club after her career was ended by the effects of concussion. Grant claims Collingwood was negligent in allowing her to resume training three weeks after she suffered a significant concussion.

The AFL said it takes concussions “and the protection of the brain health of all those playing our game extremely seriously.” The League recently updated the protocols with players required to pass an 11-step program over a 12 day period and be cleared medically before returning to play. The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners last month warned governments and sporting bodies that they must do more to limit the long-term impacts of concussions and repeated head trauma, and submitted a report to an Australian Senate inquiry into concussions and head trauma in contact sports. Past and current players have been urged to donate their brains to science in order to further study CTE, the degenerative brain disease caused by concussions. In recent years, Geelong great Graham "Polly" Farmer, former player and coach Danny Frawley, and former Tiger Shane Tuck were all found to have CTE in post-mortems.

A recent independent review of the AFL's handling of the concussion issue found that the league's previous research into the long-term effects of concussion was "under-funded and under-resourced and suffered from a lack of governance, stewardship and coordination". The neurologist who undertook that previous research for the AFL, Paul McCrory, has been accused of plagiarizing material. Now, the AFL has pledged $25 million to fund a study into the long-term effects of concussions and head knocks on players. The league will begin recruiting participants this year for the 10-year study. They are also preparing to lodge a submission to an ongoing Australian Senate inquiry into the effects of head trauma sustained in contact sports. The study is part of a plan that sets out "strategic pillars including Education, Prevention, Detection, Recovery, Support and Innovation and identifies key priorities, objectives and actions for each of these pillars". AFL executive Andrew Dillon said, " ... this past year represents significant progress in the area of concussion management with the adoption of a new governance structure, the development and release of the strategic plan and the release of updated concussion guidelines. These actions demonstrate the AFL's ongoing commitment to continuous improvement, increased transparency and diverse consultation, in the prioritization of health and safety of all Australian football participants across all levels of the game." The league is also working on the introduction of an expanded financial assistance plan for former AFL and AFLW players who are experiencing financial difficulties as a result of concussions and the long-term effects of the injuries.

In a related story, Geelong great Gary Ablett Snr has been diagnosed with brain damage due to the concussions he suffered during his career. Ablett, 61, was interviewed by the Herald Sun and said he began experiencing issues in 2010. Symptoms included headaches, pressure at the top of his skull, depression, anxiety and fatigue. He had numerous scans and then in 2015 he said his condition worsened, “From 2015 onwards, and almost every day, there were signs that things had changed, then about 12 months ago I started getting symptoms that alarmed me to the point where I contacted Peter Jess, whom I’m aware has been a concussion advocate for a number of past players.” Jess helped set him up for more scans which showed significant structural and functional brain damage. He has since been seeing a psychiatrist and receiving medical treatment which he says has helped relieve the headaches and improved his mood. He contacted the AFLPA for financial assistance but has not received a reply.

Ablett snr said he had made a claim with the AFL Players’ Association for financial assistance to deal with the brain damage four months ago, and that he had provided information, but he hadn’t heard back from the AFLPA in recent times.

Source: abc.net.au, theage.com.au

Article last changed on Tuesday, March 28, 2023 - 1:53 PM EDT


Comments

It is not only the guys who have taken legal action. Emma Grant, a former AFLW player for Collingwood, has filed suit against the club because concussions ruined her career. Grant claims that Collingwood was careless in allowing her to return to training drift hunters only three weeks after sustaining a severe concussion.

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