Injured footballers are seeking compensation from the AFL in a landmark class action for “serious harm” caused by concussion.
The claim, filed in the Supreme Court of Victoria by Margalit Injury lawyers, is on behalf of all professional AFL players who suffered concussion injuries from head impacts while playing or training between 1985 and March 14 this year.
The lead plaintiff is Jarrad Maxwell Rook, better known as Max Rook.
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The two-time premiership was employed by the Geelong Football Club from 2001 to October 2010 and played 135 games during that time.
Rook suffered 20 to 30 concussions during his playing career and practices, and was knocked unconscious by blows to the head at least twice, the affidavit said.
“As a result of the defendant’s breach of duty and negligence, the plaintiff suffered injury, loss and damage,” the report says.
The class action claims Rook suffered permanent and life-altering injuries as a result of the concussions and the negligence of the AFL.
More than 60 former players have come forward to join the class action.
They are seeking compensation for pain and suffering, economic loss and medical expenses, said Pearl’s Injury Lawyers.
The filing states that the case can include representatives of any deceased former players who meet the criteria.
“The injuries sustained by this group of former AFL players as a direct result of concussions while playing Australian Rules have had a devastating impact on their lives and the lives of their loved ones,” Director Michelle Margalit said.
“Some of the players who joined this significant class action were never able to keep their jobs after leaving the AFL.
“Their personal lives have been disrupted and they live with constant physical and mental pain. It’s heartbreaking and they need proper care.”
Long-term injuries suffered by the players included chronic traumatic encephalopathy, traumatic brain injury and dementia, Ms Margalit said.
Many also experienced psychological effects, including post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal ideation.
The company was speaking with neuroscience experts in preparation for their testimony in court.
The writ pointed to the history of medical knowledge about the effects of concussions and said it was reasonably foreseeable to the AFL that players were vulnerable to concussions from head impacts “at all relevant times”.
“It has been known since at least 1992 that concussions are among the most devastating sports injuries and that when a player suffers a concussion, the risk of a second or subsequent concussion increases,” the statement said.
The AFL also owes players a duty to take reasonable care for their safety and avoid exposing them to unnecessary risk, the letter said.
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It pointed to the AFL’s alleged failure to draw up and implement rules, policies, procedures and protocols consistent with medical knowledge to reduce the incidence of concussions as evidence of its “negligence”.
The AFL also failed to adequately assess the risks of head impacts and concussions and to educate players about the risks of long-term injuries from concussions, particularly as they related to early return to play, the letter said.
Last year, the AFL apologized to former players who were “disappointed” by the league’s concussion research project after an independent review criticized the study.
It was underfunded and under-resourced and some AFL players still neglected their baseline concussion test in pre-season to reduce the chance of a concussion diagnosis on game day, the review found.
Earlier on Tuesday, the AFL released its updated guidelines on the elite game and its strategic plan for sport-related concussions in football.
The AFL has been contacted for comment.
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