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by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

In November, former Cat and Bomber John Barnes became the lead plaintiff in a potential class action suit against the AFL due to the number of concussions and the after effects he has suffered. Other plaintiffs in the class action suit include John Platten (Hawthorn), Shaun Smith (Melbourne), and a former Adelaide and Port Adelaide player who has yet to be named. A least another dozen players have agreed to be plaintiffs. 

Barnes, 48, was diagnosed with epilepsy five years ago, and suffers seizures and memory loss that he believes were caused by numerous collisions during his 14-year career, “It’s turned my life upside down ... I’m not the same ... bloke I used to be. ” Attorney Greg Griffin, who is also chairman of soccer club Adelaide United, requested Platten's medical records from Hawthorn. Griffin met with an AFLPA delegation, including CEO Paul Marsh, in December to discuss the litigation and the role the Players Association might play in it. He was told it would be a board decision by the AFLPA as they have to "... balance their relationship with the AFL and looking after their members." Griffin is also working with veteran player agent and concussion campaigner Peter Jess. The AFLPA told Griffin that they did not want Jess involved but Griffin said Jess was an integral part in the preparation of the case. 

The AFLPA issued the following statement,  “Our request to meet with Mr Griffin demonstrates how seriously the AFLPA considers this particular issue. The AFLPA made it clear ... that it was open to how it could support the proposed legal action but would need to be provided with further information, including a proposed statement of claim before it could determine what if any support was appropriate. Whilst we support the right of any of our members to pursue legal action, for the AFLPA to support a legal case without having a complete understanding of it would be irresponsible. Contrary to the comments Mr Griffin has attributed to us regarding our need to ‘balance interests’, our sole focus remains how we can best support our members.” Jess responded by saying he does not serve two masters and is not indebted to the AFL. 

Greg Williams (Geelong, Sydney, Carlton), who suffers from memory loss due to multiple hits, is not part of the suit but supports it. He believes the greater awareness is helping and gave credit to the AFL for putting in place measures to protect players, but said there was a lot more to be done as players struggle to protect themselves, “Even with the girls and the ladies playing, I think they’re going too hard already. I really think they’re not that good at protecting themselves either, and I think umpire wise they need to be really careful [and protect the players].” He said measures should be put in place to reduce the intensity of the game and ease the pressure to wear players out".

Barnes' wife Rowena has formed a support group of wives and partners of other players who are battling concussion- related issues. Griffin said the women would be "... the best historians ...  because they sat through the games and stayed up with them all night and watched them head back to training ... ". He also touched on the breakup issue, saying he believed the divorce rate for the ex-players suffering problems from concussions was probably higher than the national average and it is another area he would investigate. 

Workers compensation insurance does not cover concussion related medical issues so sportspeople have no other recourse than the courts.

Source: sen.com.au, theage.com.au, sportingnews.com.au

Article last changed on Wednesday, February 07, 2018 - 1:49 AM EST


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