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Concussion in the AFL: Should headgear be compulsory?

Concussion in Australian rules football is back on the agenda, with former AFL star Shaun Smith revealing he nearly jumped in front of a train while he battled depression, which he believes was caused by concussions sustained during his 12-year AFL career.

Smith, along with former Essendon and Geelong ruckman, John Barnes, are part of a group of retired players suing the AFL.

Dr Andrew McIntosh, Adjunct Professor at Edith Cowan University and biomechanics expert, said the AFL has come a long way in how it deals with concussion over the last two decades, but more can be done.

“The AFL and other sports in Australia, but particularly the AFL, have been leading the way by trying to manage concussion,” he told 3AW’s Tom Elliott.

“Recognising that someone is concussed, getting them off the field, and making sure that they’ve recovered before they return to play; those are things that they are able to do now and are interested in doing, and were not doing in the same way 20 years ago.

“That was actually quite revolutionary.”

But there is still much room for improvement.

Dr McIntosh said current helmets available do little to prevent concussions while playing football, but improved headgear will likely feature in the AFL in future.

“Australian rules football has got some very unique issues in terms of how people can get injured,” he said.

“For that reason, I think that headgear has a place.

“I think the first step would be to make sure that the headgear that’s actually available and supported in the game is effective.”

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John Barnes speaks on AFL concussion claims

Image (at top): Michael Dodge

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