Dozens of AFL players will use one of the AFL’s own historic concussion reports in a major class action against the sport’s governing body.
Lawyers for lead plaintiff and former Geelong star Max Rooke will rely on a report by the AFL’s Medical Officer dating back to November 1993, according to papers filed in the Victorian Supreme Court.
Rooke’s legal team argues the document, which was prepared for the National Health and Medical Research Council, shows the league was aware of the risks related to concussion.
It says the report effectively said players should only resume training after their concussion symptoms were resolved, and that their return should be non-contact until all symptoms had cleared.
In the claim Rooke details almost two dozen significant head knocks or symptoms consistent with concussions between 2002 and 2009 during the home and away season, finals and VFL games.
The court papers allege Rooke was on multiple occasions allowed to play or train while showing concussion symptoms, had not fully recovered and had not taken the mandatory rest period.
His injuries are listed as an acquired brain injury and psychiatric injury, which severely limit his employment capacity.
More than 70 players are part of the action, which has now been broadened to include the families of footballers who have died.
“The claim alleges that the AFL was aware of the substantial medical and scientific evidence regarding the possible long-term effects of concussion,” said Michel Margalit, principal of Margalit Injury Lawyers which is running the action.
“Instead of taking steps early to protect players, the AFL dragged their feet which has left players with lifelong conditions that they will never recover from.”
In addition to the class action, around 30 players have filed WorkCover claims on behalf of players who were active in the game between 1978 and 1997 and who say they suffered physical and psychological injuries.
A number of former AFL players have also launched individual law suits.
Some deceased footballers have been found to have suffered from severe chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE, which is related to concussion.