‘Bump’ dominates headlines as former players sue AFL over concussion 


Could this be the year the bump is farewelled for good from Aussie Rules? Photo: https://www.flickr.com/people/roger-the-sheep/ (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The early part of this year’s AFL season saw the ‘bump’ becoming a topic of significant debate.

Because of advances in technology and more research about the topic, the league’s been more active in recent years in attempting to protect players from life threatening injuries.

These efforts mainly centred around concussion and head trauma.

In March 2023, up to 60 players took part in Margalit Injury Lawyers’ lodging of a landmark class action against the AFL.

The sport’s legends such as Max Rooke and Liam Picken are among the notable names who’ve greatly been affected by ­multiple concussions which has impacted their everyday lives.

Last year Carlton captain Patrick Cripps had his two-match ban cleared at the AFL Appeals Board after being reported for a bump which concussed Brisbane Lions player Callum Ah Chee.

This controversial decision caused anger across the AFL community, with Cripps being allowed to play in the last two games of the season ultimately allowing him to win the 2022 Brownlow Medal.

In the early rounds of the 2023 premiership season, the AFL Tribunal and MRO have been criticised for sanctions against players like Kysaiah Pickett and Shane McAdam.

Much has been made of the punishments – two weeks (Pickett) and three weeks (McAdam) – not being consistent with what the AFL is preaching, especially after the class action was launched.

In a post-match press conference on March 18 after a game between the Melbourne Demons and the Western Bulldogs, Melbourne coach Craig Goodwin declared the ‘’bump is dead.’’

Players should just tackle instead, he explained, highlighting the game moving in a different direction.

Many have called for harsher suspensions for perpetrators than what the AFL has recently been handing out, and have questioned the current Tribunal and MRO system.

A Monash University study found AFL players return too quickly to competitive matches after sustaining concussions.

‘’Despite the concussed Australian footballers being cleared to return to play at the time of MRI, the study found evidence that the athletes’ brains had not yet fully recovered,’’the authors of the study say.

Taking necessary precautions to prevent injuries from concussion and head trauma – like heavily penalising moves like the bump –  can limit how often these injuries occur.

Players receiving bans of 2 and 3 weeks may be more likely to become repeat offenders if they don’t receive larger bans of 6-8 weeks.

We have yet not seen this kind of approach and consistency from the AFL which would support its efforts to clamp down on injury-causing behaviour.

Collingwood veteran Scott Pendlebury is one of many who have called for the introduction of a sin bin.

“Watching the NRL they get sin binned, and I don’t mind that for our players,” he told Triple M.

“So it’s a complete disadvantage, and now you play 17 versus 18 for ten minutes.”

The AFL has been criticised for being one of the only sports who has not introduced a sin bin.

This would punish perpetrators and would send a message to players and teams on how to play the game in the best way possible.

There are fans, AFL media personalities and traditionalists who have suggested that the game is ‘’becoming soft’’.

Instead, the game has been evolving and the more we learn about head trauma and concussion the more the game will change with each year and decade.

An ACRISP study found players who have sustained concussions inhabit a ‘’wanting to play at all costs’’ culture.

This is something that needs to be stamped out by club doctors and medical staff to ensure a safe workplace for players and their health.

But a lot of these issues all have one thing in common – the bump.

With discussion of the bump dominating the early part of the 2023 AFL season, will the league make the substantial changes needed in response to the dangerous and controversial move?