AFL responds to coroner’s findings

FILE - Former AFL Player Shane Tuck Dies Aged 38
Former AFL star Shane Tuck died in 2020. Picture: Michael Dodge/Getty Images

The AFL is considering a coroner’s recommendation for independent doctors to attend all AFL and AFLW games to assist in the assessment of head injuries and “currently implementing” a plan to limit contact sessions at training.

But the league has held off bringing all the changes called for by Victorian State Coroner John Cain following an inquest into the death of former Richmond player Shane Tuck last December.

Instead, the AFL said the recommendations would form part of potential improvements to the prevention and management of concussion.

Judge Cain made considerable recommendations to make football safer after an autopsy revealed Tuck, who died by suicide at the age of 38 in July 2020, suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) – a degenerative brain condition that can only be confirmed by post-mortem.

The recommendations included the AFL introduce independent doctors and mandatory baseline testing, reduce contact training, and deploy ­instrumented mouthguards to reduce the risk of CTE.

In its written response, the AFL acknowledged the findings and said the recommendations were consistent with the league’s prioritisation of the health and safety of players at all levels of the game.

The AFL statement also said the recommendations would form “part of our ongoing process of consideration of potential improvements in our strategic approach to the prevention and management of concussion and other head trauma in Australian football”.

There are already concussion “spotters” in the stands at games, the league has banned clubs from engaging in boxing sparring sessions as part of training, and independent doctors are at AFLW games.

“The AFL continues to invest in, and support, research into concussion and repeated head trauma, including supporting the use of instrumented mouthguards by players, encouraging brain donation and investing in the AFL Brain Health Initiative longitudinal research program.” AFL general counsel Stephen Meade said.

“On behalf of the AFL, we reiterate our deepest sympathies to the Tuck family on Shane’s untimely passing in 2020 and their immense contribution to research into concussion and head trauma in Australian football.”