Neuroscientist Alan Pierce has warned that the AFL and NRL were giving themselves an “out-of-clause” when the issue of players and stunned down players came up and there is still a lot of work to be done in both contact games.
- Both AFL and NRL have launched measures to help the Consensus this year, from the new available medical sub to a crackdown on high contact in tackles.
- Dr. Pierce said more research is needed to determine if the risk of long-term exposure to trauma increases the likelihood that players will be seriously affected.
- NRL and AFL have 11- and 12-day inclusive stand-downs, but Drs. Purse said there are ways for clubs and leagues to train players and return them to competition.
In the middle of the tree in football circles Gold Coast player Nick Holman’s ban for running-down match against Ginny Ong’s Mitch Duncan – and the reverse of that banner., Dr. Pearce has spoken in a detailed interview on issues related to bullying within the contact game.
“One of the things we’re concerned about is the risk of brain trauma,” said Dr Pearce, an associate professor at Laro Trobe University’s associate health school and Victorian manager of the Australian Sports Brain Bank.
“What we’ve seen with Danny Frevel, Shane Tux, Steve Folks (ex-AFL and NRL players whose brains were post-mortem checked and found to have CTE) – it’s more about repeat trauma through their careers.
“While the stimulus for it is just an electric stick, it doesn’t have to be the driver for the neuro-degenerative disease that we are most concerned about.
“Nick Holman one, that was quite an accident, so they need to think logically.
“If it was a deliberate elbow in the head or a collision of intent to hurt, it was quite malicious, (that’s different), they should be two different things.”
His decision to accuse Honman of confronting Duncan sparked protests from pundits, former players and fans that Duckle’s head hit the turf – resulting in a fight – which led to the crash.
Dr. Pierce said there is not enough information to determine whether the risk of head trauma guarantees more health problems for athletes or increases the likelihood of serious competition with the number of athletes.
“That’s why we’re so anxious to research it and try to get answers for Australia,” he said.
“What we’re looking at (research) is that the risk comes largely from the United States, in American football. One of the counters is that rugby and Australian football are different in their specialty … to see if that applies here.
“However, we never thought we would find a CTE case in Australia for this reason.
“Even playing 200 games in the AFL – which doesn’t include games before the AFL. They can be in the VFL, or in the WAFL which is a pre-junior competition and a sub-junior competition before.
“You can see how the years add up. I don’t think we’ll see another 40,000-gamer again, because of the potential concern around risk.”
Both the NRL and the AFL are focused on growing through a crackdown on high contact in tackles in the Caucasus-Rugby League and AFL by introducing a medical all Which can be used to replace the player with haste.
Dr. Pierce acknowledged the work being done by both the NRL and the AFL, but said there was more to be done.
“This year it’s just that they brought a 12-day stand-down in the AFL, and an 11-day stand-down in the NRL,” he said.
“But with both codes, I’ve said ‘get out of jail’ clause. In the AFL release (on stand-down), they talked about presumption.”
“If a player comes in and the doctor assumes he has a concussion, but after further testing he says he’s not sure, he can either return to the field or enter a 12-day stand-down period.
“That should be cleared by the chief medical officer. In the NRL, with an 11-day stand-down, the club can go to an independent neurologist or independent doctor, who can heal them and return to training or competition before the 11-day completion.
Message to fans – trust the process
Dr. Pierce said the passion that sports fans have for the game is often felt on social media and elsewhere.
“We have to think about these players not just for human entertainment (sporting goods),” he said.
“I think Code is trying to do the right thing, and especially with Holman’s case we have to believe in the process.
“Yes, he was sentenced to two weeks, but the (tribunal) reversed that because they can see the arguments (against the charges), so I think we should believe in the process.
“We have to have some procedures to protect the head and no process like this will be 100 percent perfect or 100 percent agreeable to all.
“With this process, natural justice prevailed. They looked at it and said it wasn’t malicious, and they reversed it.
“I think fans should be a little more sensible and not let emotions give their reactions just what comes up on social media.