The AFL acknowledges His Honour Judge John Cain’s findings and recommendations in the Victorian Coroner’s Court in his investigation of the death of former Richmond footballer, Shane Tuck.
Amongst other matters, in his Findings Judge Cain commended the AFL for its commitment to supporting research in this important area of player wellbeing, health and safety including with its Brain Health Initiative longitudinal research program which will aim to commence recruiting participants in 2024. Judge Cain also commended the AFL for the work that it has done in developing and/or implementing the CSX App, Hawkeye and the use of concussion spotters in the ARC for AFL and AFLW games.
Judge Cain’s findings also referred to the report and evidence of Dr Robert Cantu, Medical Director and Director of Clinical Research at the Dr Robert C. Cantu Concussion Centre who stated in his report that the approach to concussion by the AFL is not only a reasonable and proportionate framework for the protection of participants in training and playing of Australian Football but is state of the art.
The AFL continues to prioritise the health and safety of our players at all levels of the game and the AFL will now take time to formally review the recommendations of Judge Cain that were largely focussed on reducing repetitive head trauma in our game, including his recommendations around the consideration of limitations to contact training, the engagement of independent doctors at all AFL and AFLW games to assess and manage suspected concussions (noting that there are already independent doctors at all AFLW matches), extending the use of mouthguard accelerometer technology (HitIQ) and increased and improved education for players at all levels with more input from the AFLPA.
The AFL has already made more than 30 changes to on-field rules and match review and tribunal guidelines over the past two decades to further protect the head and annually updates the AFL and AFLW concussion guidelines to improve the response to head knocks in our game in accordance with current and evolving science. The AFL is constantly investigating further changes and initiatives that involve technology and equipment trials and exploration of concepts that are directed towards protecting the health and safety of our athletes.
The AFL’s concussion protocols have been developed on the advice of qualified medical, concussion and scientific experts. We will continue to base the continued evolution of these protocols and ultimately the continued health and safety of our players on the advice and guidance of qualified medical professionals and scientific experts. The AFL has a team of people specifically working on initiatives to improve brain health in our sport and we will continue to strengthen protocols and the education of clubs and players as to why this issue is taken so seriously.
The AFL welcomes the input of the State Coroner in our ongoing process of the consideration of potential improvements in our strategic approach to the prevention and management of concussion and other head trauma in Australian Football. Pursuant to the Coroners Act 2008 (Vic) the AFL must formally respond to the Judge Cain’s recommendations directed to it within 3 months.
The AFL reiterates its sympathies to Shane’s sister Renee Tuck who gave evidence at the Coronial Investigation hearings and the Tuck family more generally on Shane’s untimely passing three years ago and their immense contribution to research into the concussion and head trauma in Australian Football.