AFL, clubs need to do more about concussion

The experience of past players suggests the AFL and its clubs need to prioritise current players’ health and prevent future issues


The AFL presides over one of the world’s most physically demanding sports. Photo: Drew Douglas (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Australian Rules Football is one of the world’s most fierce sports.

Players are tackled left right and centre, receiving multiple head knocks and dripping blood from hits all over their bodies.

Furthermore, concussions are frequent in the AFL, with many players experiencing at least one head knock over the course of their careers.

While all players are aware of the contact involved with playing a sport like this, those who do receive concussions need to be taken care of properly.

Evidence of a prior lack of care is suggested by a class action lawsuit filed by more than 60 former AFL players against the league, demanding compensation for harm and damage from concussions they received while playing.

These players are requesting remuneration for ongoing pain, side effects and medical expenses from concussions.

Margalit Injury Lawyers Managing Principle Michel Margalit told Fox Footy that several of the players who have joined the historic class action cannot hold down a job after leaving the AFL because of the constant physical and mental pain resulting from their playing days.

And while this doesn’t just affect their everyday lives, it also has a negative impact on their families and loved ones.

Max Rooke, a two time premiership player for the Geelong Cats, is the main claimant in the class action.

The lawsuit states that Rooke suffered “permanent, life altering injuries as a result of concussion related injuries, and due to the negligence of the AFL” as reported by the Herald Sun.

He is seeking compensation as a player in the belief that the AFL should have done more to protect him, and others like him.

Liam Picken – a Western Bulldogs star who announced his retirement back in 2019 – has similarly launched legal action against the AFL, his former club, and club doctors over ongoing health concerns related to concussions he suffered from his playing days.

According to the ABC, Picken says the club allowed him to play on while raising concussion concerns, and despite his cognitive test results coming back below average from as early as 2014.

Such claims are not a good look for clubs and the league, whose number one priority should be players’ overall health and wellbeing.

In addition to multiple players suffering long term health concerns after their playing careers following various head knocks, former players have also lost their lives to the game.

While a single concussion may not lead to CTE, a pattern of numerous knocks to the head could – which is what experts believe happened to football legend Danny Frawley.

In order to increase the safety of aspiring football players, the Coroners Report into Frawley’s death proposed recommendations by the AFL for players to donate their brains in the event of their deaths to medical research.

The report found evidence that suggests CTE may have contributed to Frawley’s depression.

This is why so many former players have gotten together to showcase what they believe is right, and to add an extra layer of protection for the next generation of footballers and their futures.

On the same day that the class action was launched the AFL released its Strategic Plan for Sport – Related Concussion in Australian football, covering the current period until 2026.

It established an outline for the football industry’s approach to concussion in sports, and it confirms the AFL’s commitment to putting player health and safety first while preserving the rules of the game.

The safety of players should never be compromised and with this new strategic plan, the AFL and its clubs look to be providing better long term support for players to protect their health and futures.