Adelaide Crow defender Scott Stevens has retired at the age of 29. Citing lingering symptoms as a result of multiple concussion injuries, Stevens in one of a number of AFL players who could potentially seek compensation from their clubs and the AFL after suffering long term brain injury from concussion.
Symptoms of concussion related illness include headaches, nausea, vomiting and blurred vision. But other, more serious effects, cited from sports people around the world in recent months include depression, personality disorders and increased levels of neurological dysfunction. And it's these effects that the AFL, and other sporting bodies, must address.
The management of concussion has long been a topic of contention within the AFL. Initially an issue of a player's ability to return to the field of play after leaving the ground as a result of a head injury, the AFL then addressed the issue of a player's capacity to play the following week. The issue has now been extended further as players like Scott Stevens are forced to retire early.
While the battle lines have not yet been drawn for this issue, increased research has been cited as one area that the AFL must act swiftly. An example of this was raised by Professor Jeffrey Rosenfeld, head of neurosurgery at the Alfred Hospital. Rosenfeld said that an 'intelligent mouthguard' has been developed in the US to measure the impact of head strikes.
The mouthguard has computer software inside that enables it to record and report on severity and frequency of head impacts. And Rosenfeld believes that it is this data that will enable the AFL to objectively assess the impact of head strikes on players.
Whatever occurs as a result of the latest events on this issue, the AFL and all other sporting codes are now on notice. And 'not acting' will not only damage their game's standing in the community, it may also cost them millions of dollars in compensation