Concussion action a must to save lives

As printed in The West Australian newspaper – Wednesday 8th September 2021
By WAN Editor-in-Chief Anthony De Ceglie

A head injury suffered on the field is a nightmare come true for any footy player and their loved ones.

This is the case whether they are a professional AFL player or — perhaps even more so — a child or a young person.

Today, we reveal the shocking experience of former Fremantle Docker Brady Grey, who suffered concussion playing for WAFL club Perth in March.

Grey said the head knock left him so confused that he needed to watch a replay of it to believe he had not been able to take the free kick he was awarded after being struck to the head. In fact, Grey was carried from the ground and suffered from headaches for days afterwards.

“It’s the first major concussion I’ve had and before I’d seen the vision, I thought I’d just walked off the field by myself after taking the possession,” he said.

It comes as the WA Football Commission announces that it will do a major review of how it deals with concussions in the game, and develop a new strategy to tackle the problem and raise awareness about the best way for these injuries to be managed.

The WAFC described the issue of concussion as “the game’s biggest modern scourge”.

The new strategy is also likely to include tougher penalties for dangerous tackles and head-high contact across all levels of the game.

WAFC chief executive Michael Roberts said “nothing was off the table” and rule changes could be afoot to stop players suffering long-term health damage as a result of onfield concussion. He said the commission particularly wanted to assure parents that it was safe to send their children to play football.

Professor of neurotrauma Lindy Fitzgerald, who is chief executive of Connectivity Traumatic Brain Injury Australia which has joined forces with WAFC on the issue, said concussion that was not diagnosed or treated properly could have “catastrophic” consequences.

Sadly, this was shown to be the case for one of the greatest footy players in history, Graham “Polly” Farmer, who suffered with Alzheimer’s disease for some 20 years before his death in 2019.

Last year, we revealed that Farmer had been posthumously diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a progressive and fatal brain disease associated with repeated traumatic brain injuries.

Farmer was the first Australian Rules footballer to be diagnosed with the disorder. It was sobering confirmation of the long-term damage that concussion could do. It demonstrated the crucial need for proper awareness, identification and management of head knocks, and any resulting concussion, from Auskick and amateur games to the elite level.

Players and their families need to have confidence that their health is of paramount importance.

The WAFC’s decision to look at the issue is good to see and should be commended.

We hope that other contact sports leagues and organisations will follow suit, so that the sports that we love to play and watch can be made as safe as possible.

Responsibility for the editorial comment is taken by WAN Editor-in-Chief Anthony De Ceglie

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