The AFL is weighing up restrictions around contact at pre-season training as Collingwood midfielder Josh Carmichael became the second player this week to suffer a concussion.
The league is desperate to reduce head knocks in the wake of the ever-growing list of former players suffering from the long-term effects of concussion, including the likes of Marcus Adams, Paddy McCartin, Paul Seedsman, Max Lynch and Justin Clarke who retired prematurely as a result.
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Carmichael is set to sit out from training until at least Christmas while he recovers, according to News Corp, having also entered concussion protocols in September when he copped a high knock in a VFL match.
The 24-year-old’s concerning knock follows that of Carlton key defender Mitch McGovern, who went down on Tuesday in a similar incident.
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Collingwood is also sweating over a verdict on the future of premiership defender Nathan Murphy, who has suffered a string of head knocks, most recently sustaining a bad concussion during this year’s grand final.
Carmichael’s blow comes just days after Victorian State Coroner John Cain handed down a recommendation to the AFL that it should limit the number of contact training sessions and hire independent doctors to assess players who suffer head knocks to reduce the risk of concussion.
Cains finding came after an investigation into the death of former AFL player, Shane Tuck, who was posthumously diagnosed with a severe case of CTE, a brain condition that has strong links to head trauma and concussion.
Josh Carmichael has suffered a concussion at training. Credit: Robert Cianflone/Getty Images
Tuck had been hearing voices, had suicidal thoughts and was forced to stay in a psychiatric ward in the years before he took his own life in July 2020, the inquest was told.
Judge Cain said it was accepted Tuck received repeated head knocks in his 173 games for AFL club Richmond and while competing as a professional boxer, but did not make findings into the nature of Tuck’s death, instead looking at preventative measures in sport to reduce concussion.
He recommended the AFL limit the number of contact training sessions players participate in before, during and after the regular season from 2025.
According to the specialist, the league should also employ independent medical practitioners to attend every AFL and AFLW match to help club doctors assess players after head knocks.
Together, and only together, the doctors should decide whether the player should be removed from the game — but if there’s a disagreement, the independent advice wins out, Judge Cain said.
The AFL should also develop and implement baseline neurological testing for each player to do at the start of each season, he added.
A coroner has handed down his findings into the death of AFL player Shane Tuck. Credit: AAP
The data should be linked to the player’s clinical profile to monitor for any changes and be used more widely by the league for ongoing medical research.
Judge Cain said the AFL should continue to assess the use of mouthguard accelerometers and protective helmets as other ways to measure and limit concussion from head knocks.
Along with his recommendations, Judge Cain commended the AFL for its work in recent years to implement concussion protocols and alter the rules of the game.
The coroner also made eight recommendations in relation to professional and amateur boxing.
Tuck became a professional boxer in South Australia after his AFL career ended in 2013, and he competed in four professional boxing bouts in Victoria.
Judge Cain recommended sparring be limited in training to reduce repetitive head knocks and boxers should undertake baseline neurological testing annually.
The former Tigers player also had a go at professional boxing. Credit: Michael Dodge/Getty Images
The Department of Jobs, Skills, Industry and Regions should extend the Victorian Professional Boxing and Combat Sports Board’s oversight to amateur boxing so all rules and advice are standardised, the judge said.
He advised the department to work with its interstate counterparts to develop a national database of registered boxers where evidence-based approaches would be applicable to everyone.
The department has been contacted for comment.
Judge Cain extended his sincere sympathies to the Tuck family, who did not attend court on Monday.
He noted Tuck’s wife Renee previously said the family would never be “fully healed or set free from the experience of Shane being taken away”.
The Tucks are among the more than 70 former players and their families who are suing the AFL, claiming the league knew of risks of harm related to concussion management.
– With AAP
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