Why quality of life, not an AFL comeback, is the goal for concussed Lion Marcus Adams

Brisbane Lions coach Chris Fagan has said the AFL is in “a terribly difficult position” regarding concussions, with the future AFL career of his defender Marcus Adams in serious doubt.

Adams has already been ruled out of the 2023 season, after suffering a severe delayed concussion against Carlton in round 21 last year. He has not played since.

Fagan indicated that Adams’ return to the field was a secondary consideration. “I’m just hoping that he can get to a point where he can enjoy life every day, and not be living like he has been over the last three or four months,” he told The Age.

Marcus Adams pictured injured on the ground in round 21.Credit:Russell Freeman, Getty Images

“He has his good days and his bad days. Sometimes he feels like he’s making progress, then he’ll have a day of headaches, days where he can’t look at a screen, that sort of thing, so it’s a slow work in progress.”

Adams, via the club, declined to comment when approached by The Age.

The news comes with the AFL facing the prospect of a class action by former AFL and AFLW players affected by repeated concussions linked to the neurodegenerative disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

The lawsuit – brought by Melbourne-based Margalit Injury Lawyers – is expected to be filed in the Melbourne Supreme Court within weeks. If successful, it will expose the AFL to a massive compensation bill.

Marcus Adams pictured being assisted by trainers during round 21 last season.Credit:Russell Freeman, Getty Images

Former AFLW player Emma Grant launched a civil claim against Collingwood last Thursday, alleging the Magpies were negligent in their duty of care after she suffered a severe concussion in a practice match in January 2020 that ended her career.

But Fagan said that it was impossible to take the risk of concussion out of fast-moving contact sports, noting that the AFL has instigated a series of rule changes over more than a decade in an attempt to protect the heads of players.

“I think the AFL are in a terribly difficult position,” Fagan said.

“There’s no game, whether it be ours, or soccer or rugby that’s safe from concussion. I’m not an expert on concussion, but the only way to stop people getting concussions is not to play the game any more.

“The AFL tried their hardest to make the game safer, and that’s all you can ask of them. It’s a ballistic game. No one wears protection, it’s got no slower, it’s contact from all directions.

“Helmets don’t help, we see that in [American] NFL – they wear helmets, but they still suffer badly from concussion instances. And there’s so much incidental contact, so what do you do about it? It’s a nightmare.”

The management of head injuries by sporting organisations in Australia is currently the subject of a federal Senate inquiry.

Sports agent and campaigner Peter Jess has submitted a list of 32 AFL players who have retired from the sport due to the impacts of concussion injuries since 2009.

The list includes former Lions champion Jonathan Brown and Justin Clarke, Western Bulldogs premiership player Liam Picken, and West Coast Eagles’ Brad Sheppard and Daniel Venables.

Last year, former No. 1 draft pick Paddy McCartin became a premiership player for the Sydney Swans after a career that looked to have ended prematurely due to multiple concussions while playing for St Kilda.

Official AFL Legend Graham “Polly” Farmer, former St Kilda captain and Richmond coach Danny Frawley and former Richmond player Shane Tuck were all found to have CTE after their deaths. Both Frawley and Tuck died by suicide.

In the NFL, over USD$1 billion (about $1.5b) in compensation has been paid out so far to former players who have suffered the impacts of repeated concussions.

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