Are AFL players being as honest as they should be about head knocks?
St Kilda midfielder Brad Crouch has said some players may hide concussions because of the AFL’s 12-day stand-down rule.
Former Carlton captain Marc Murphy believes his generation has come to understand the long-term health impacts and are more inclined to “put their hands up”. Come finals time, though, “it could get interesting”.
Mitch Duncan suffered a concussion after a heavy tackle in round 10. Credit:Getty Images
The debate about player honesty and concussion resurfaced as WorkSafe completed visits to seven of the 10 Victorian-based clubs, seeking player feedback on the new concussion rules at the behest of Peter Jess, the veteran player manager and concussion campaigner.
Crouch said in a radio interview last week that he believed there were players who would not disclose on-field hits that could lead to a concussion test and a minimum 12-days on the sidelines because they were worried about losing their place in the side.
“I reckon yeah, because you miss the next week as well if you get concussed. So I think a lot of players now would be pretty worried about that, they don’t want to miss the next week, especially if players are in form slumps or on the edge of selection or have big games coming up, say, for instance, finals and stuff like that,” Crouch said on RSN Sport.
“It’s a really hard one. I think players now unless it’s really obvious that they get knocked out, I think there are going to be times where players don’t put their hand up – definitely.”
Brad Crouch has said he thinks some players won’t own up to concussions due to the AFL’s new rule.Credit:Getty Images
Crouch – who was nursing a depressed cheek fracture – said five years ago he would have told team medical staff of a hit to the head.
“I probably think at the moment, the new concussion rules, some players wouldn’t be telling them though. I think with the change in the rules, there would be players that are out there going: ‘I am not going to risk missing time,’” he said.
That’s not what AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan, the league’s medical staff and club medical staff want to hear in a year when the introduction of the minimum 12-day break for concussion was introduced to protect players and their long-term health. Not to mention their families.
Murphy told The Age players were “pretty diligent” and praised the Blues’ medical staff for the way they handed head knocks. Murphy recently missed two matches because of whiplash from a tackle gone wrong at training but was not concussed.
“We are, unfortunately, seeing issues with former players down the track having mental health [issues] and injury of the brain. Certainly … it has made me really aware, especially, about being diligent about it. I am a bit older, I have played for a long time – it might be different for some of the young guys,” Murphy said.
“I think the club doctors are really good at analysing, first of all, the vision if it happens on game day and then, obviously, symptomatic as well, and going through the right protocols. I think players are pretty good at putting their hand up and saying: ‘If I have a head knock, it’s best to get off and take the mandatory 12 days.’”
But then came the caveat. “The only thing is, it could get interesting towards preliminary finals, grand finals. I think players are, well, I am certainly much better than what I was even four years ago, the awareness of head injuries,” Murphy said.
“The more education we keep getting as players, having tight rules, I think it’s really good for players’ wellbeing going forward.”
Clubs are doing the right thing. The Western Bulldogs have kept Tim English on “his bum” for a month because of the concussion he received from friendly fire against Greater Western Sydney, while the Magpies and Levi Greenwood are searching for answers about his latest head knock.
However, AFL great Wayne Carey added weight to Crouch’s comments on Saturday when he said players were loathe to lay on the ground for too long after a hit for fear they would then require a concussion test, and face missing matches. And it was only in April when retired St Kilda great Nick Riewoldt, when discussing the minimum 12-day break, said if he was concussed in a preliminary final, he would seek an injunction through the Supreme Court to be able to play.
Riewoldt was criticised for this and leading sports lawyer Paul Horvath said any attempt to overturn the 12-day concussion spell to play in a grand final would be “an absolute longshot”. But judging by recent comments, and until that option is formally rejected before a judge, it appears only a matter of time before a male or female player will push his his or her health to one side for the chance to taste the sport’s ultimate success.
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