Former Eagles player speaks out about AFL concussion failure

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·Sports Reporter
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Daniel Venables retired from the AFL after a scary concussion in 2019, but believes his career might be alive had he recieved a proper diagnosis and treatment in the months afterwards. Pictures: Channel 7/Getty Images
Daniel Venables retired from the AFL after a scary concussion in 2019, but believes his career might be alive had he recieved a proper diagnosis and treatment in the months afterwards. Pictures: Channel 7/Getty Images

Former AFL player Daniel Venables says doctors have told him his career could potentially have been saved had he recieved proper treatment for concussion.

The ex-West Coast Eagles player retired from sport in 2019 due to ongoing issues relating to a nasty concussion he copped when his head clashed flush with then Melbourne Demons defender Tim Smith's hip.

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After-effects and symptoms of consussion linger still for the 23-year-old, years after the incident and his sporting retirement.

Venables was initially treated by the AFL's concussion adviser Paul McCrory, who has since become the subject of both AFL-lead and independent accusations of scientific plagiarism, while his ability to practice has been limited by the Medical Board of Australia.

McCrory allegedly told Venables to 'do nothing' after the concussion against Melbourne, before the Eagles player was later prescribed anti-depressants.

In a revealing interview with Channel 7 AFL reporter Ryan Daniels, Venables said he had sustained an incredible seven bleeds on the right side of his brain.

“I was told to do nothing pretty much, and I got put on antidepressants to fix my headaches,” Venables said.

“Seven bleeds in my brain, and I didn’t do anything about it.”

Venables spoke to Daniels after returning from a trip to the US, which had been sponsored by both the AFL and West Coast in order to improve his quality of life.

He said he had been informed that even considering the serious concussion he had sustained in the collision with Smith, proper treatment likely would have enabled him to keep playing.

“I wasted a lot of time, the most important part of my rehab,” he said.

“There were a lot of red flags looking back on it, and it’s shattering.”

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Venables described the debilitating effects of his ongoing symptoms, which continue to cause frequent headaches and substantial pain.

The five day a week, four hour a day treatment program he undertook in June amounted to 'two years' of work in just a few weeks.

“It’s like doing two years’ worth of rehab in a one-month block which is pretty challenging,” he said.

“I have a flicker in my eye that goes to the left, which causes a lot of headaches and neck pain.

“I’m trying to retrain my eyes back to normal, so by moving in all sorts of angles (in the Gyro Sphere, the neurologist) is trying to target the right side of my brain, which is where I had my seven bleeds.”

Former West Coast Eagles player Daniel Venables' AFL career was cut short after a horror concussion in 2019. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)
Former West Coast Eagles player Daniel Venables' AFL career was cut short after a horror concussion in 2019. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Venables also said it was imperative that the AFL radically change their approach to detecting and treating concussion.

He also said that clubs should be more willing to pick up any slack from the AFL in order to ensure players didn't leave the system worse than they were going in.

“If the AFL aren’t going to, then I feel like West Coast should take it into their own hands independently and get this objective baseline testing at the start of the year, whether that’s ocular testing, vestibular testing or cognition testing,” he said.

“It will take the players three hours to do, but it can save their lives to be honest.”

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