Geelong flag winner Max Rooke leads concussion lawsuit against AFL

The two-time premiership player is the lead plaintiff in a class action representing more than 60 former AFL players.

Max Rooke is pictured left holding a football, and on the right being helped from the field by a trainer.
Former Geelong player Max Rooke is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the AFL over its handling of concussion. Pictures: Getty Images

The AFL is facing a class action lawsuit comprising of more than 60 players, lead by former Geelong premiership player Max Rooke in what looms as a major challenge to the league's concussion credentials. Rooke is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit which alleges the AFL was negligent in its handling of concussion between the years of 1985 and March 14, 2023.

A beloved figure at Geelong who was part of the Cats' 2007 and 2009 grand final triumphs, Rooke alleges he suffered permanent and life-altering injuries as a result of concussion-related injuries and because of the AFL's negligence. He and the other players in the class action are seeking compensation for pain and suffering, economic loss and medical expenses, with Margalit Injury Lawyers lodging the action in the Supreme Court of Victoria.

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"The injuries suffered by this group of former AFL players, as a direct result of the concussions sustained while playing Aussie rules, has had a devastating impact on their lives and the lives of their loved ones,'' managing principal Michel Margalit said.

"Some of the players who have joined this landmark class action have never been able to hold down a job after leaving the AFL. Their personal lives have been shattered and they live with constant physical and mental pain. It's heart-breaking and they need to be adequately cared for."

Ms Margalit said the evidence had long been clear that concussions were an ongoing risk for AFL players, and that many were likely to suffer effects many years after retiring from the sport. The AFL last year apologised to past players who were "let down" by the league's concussion research project after an independent review criticised the study.

"The medical evidence is clear," Ms Margalit said. "The players' concussion occurred while playing Aussie Rules and those concussions have gone on to cause them serious, lifelong physical and psychological harm."

Latest concussion lawsuit follows Liam Picken legal action

Earlier on Tuesday, the AFL released its updated guidelines for the elite game and strategic plan for sport-related concussion in football. The long-term injuries sustained by players included chronic traumatic encephalopathy, traumatic brain injury and dementia, Ms Margalit said.

Many also experienced psychological impacts including post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal ideation. The firm hoped the AFL would engage in early resolution discussions to avoid unnecessarily prolonging the players' suffering.

It was speaking with neurology experts in preparation for them to give evidence in court. It comes as former Western Bulldogs player Liam Picken launched legal action against the AFL, his former club and doctors over claims they allowed him to return to the field while suffering concussion symptoms that ultimately ended his career.

Former Western Bulldogs star Liam Picken alleges his career was ended prematurely due to mismanagement of concussions.  (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)
Former Western Bulldogs star Liam Picken alleges his career was ended prematurely due to mismanagement of concussions. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

He alleges the parties breached their duty of care by allowing him to continue playing while suffering concussion symptoms, failing to take reasonable care for his safety and exposing him to unnecessary harm. Picken's suit detailed occasions in 2017 and 2018 in which he alleges the club failed to adequately test him for concussion symptoms following separate head knocks.

The doctors allegedly knew he was in a position of danger but did not watch Picken for signs and symptoms of concussion or declare him unfit for returning to the field, nor did they assess him any further despite his continuing symptoms. Further, Picken and his partner Annie Nolan made multiple complaints that his symptoms were consistent with post-concussion syndrome, which eventually led to the end of his career.

Picken continues to suffer due to the concussions, with symptoms including headaches, poor concentration, depression and sleep impairment. He studied an undergraduate and masters degree in international business and finance before finishing his football career but said his injuries left him totally incapable of pursuing a career in those fields.

With AAP

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