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The Richmond Tigers have hit back at "inflammatory allegations" made against the AFL club's medical staff during a coronial investigation into the death of former player Shane Tuck.
Tuck died at age 38 last year after a battle with mental health issues.
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A subsequent autopsy revealed he had “severe” chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a disease of the brain caused by repeated head knocks which can only be diagnosed after death.
Coroner John Cain was told on Tuesday that Tuck was allowed to keep playing with numerous concussions.
The coronial investigation was told that Tuck's widow Katherine wants to know what role the Richmond club doctors played in letting him get back on the field after suffering the head knocks.
It was alleged that Tuck was treated poorly by Richmond club doctors.
“The widow would be asking … how her husband was able to be so poorly and badly medically treated by those doctors involved at Richmond who allowed him to continue to play with numerous concussions,” lawyer Greg Griffin told the Coroners Court of Victoria.
“The words of the widow are: ‘It is the voices in his head that were telling him to suicide’.
“The debilitating illness of CTE was caused by the manner in which Shane Tuck was permitted to go un-medically treated, or not properly cared for during his lengthy contract and period of employment with Richmond."
Later on Tuesday, the Richmond Tigers released a strongly-worded statement refuting the allegations.
"We feel compelled to defend the highly professional medical staff that managed Shane Tuck throughout his career in the wake of the inflammatory allegations made at a coronial investigation," Richmond said in a statement.
"We are appalled at the suggestion our medical staff acted in a negligent or unethical way.
"We stand behind those medical staff who acted to the highest professional standards, and in the best interests of Shane during his career."
Class action of concussed AFL players in the works
CTE, a debilitating neurological condition, has also been diagnosed posthumously in fellow former VFL/AFL players Graham "Polly" Farmer, Danny Frawley and Murray Weideman.
Cain said on Tuesday he intended to look at the concussion policies and protocols for the AFL and boxing, according to multiple media reports.
After playing 173 senior games for Richmond, Tuck briefly took up boxing until 2017.
Amid growing global concerns about the long-term health effects of concussion in sport, the AFL and AFLW strengthened their protocols at the start of the year.
Concussed players must have at least 12 days off under the guidelines, which also extend to state and local leagues.
A class action on behalf of concussed AFL players is being planned.
Griffin, managing partner of Griffins Lawyers, has said he has been preparing a class action against the AFL for several years.
Last year, Tuck's sister Renee spoke out about the late AFL great's devastating decline in the months before his death.
“He started becoming very confused. He was getting a bit vague and sometimes you would have to ask him things three times and that’s where it really started snowballing from there,” Renee said.
“Unfortunately we tried medication, we tried electroconvulsive surgery which is brain-zapping for depression. Nothing. You would look at him and know he was leaving us, slowly.
“He started seizing up and his motor skills were going into dementia and I knew from a year out from trying as a family to get him back, I knew we were in a lot of trouble.”
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