AN ANALYSIS of the late Danny Frawley's brain has revealed the much-loved St Kilda champion was suffering from stage two chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) at the time of his death in 2019.
The neurological disorder can only be identified by a brain analysis after death and can be linked to repeated head knocks.
Frawley (an iconic figure of the game who was a famous defender for the Saints, a state representative, a coach at Richmond, and TV personality) died at age 56 when his car hit a tree near Ballarat in September almost 12 months ago.
The AFL issued a statement on Tuesday, saying it was notified earlier this year that the Australian Sports Brain Bank at Sydney's Royal Prince Alfred Hospital had made a CTE diagnosis in relation to Frawley.
AFL chief Gillon McLachlan said the game had changed considerably since Frawley's time as a player and the League had made a number of changes to provide greater on-field protection for players, while educating clubs about the effects of concussion.
"We have strengthened matchday protocols for the identification and management of concussion, we continue to change the Laws of the Game to discourage high contact, and also moved earlier this season to change the Tribunal rules to more strictly sanction tackles that endanger the head," McLachlan said.
Following the CTE diagnosis, Frawley's wife, Anita, told News Corp that she "strongly suspected there was more going on with Danny than straightforward depression".
"We are waiting for the release of the coroner's report before any further comment, however I want people to know about the problem now, and not wait, as I believe this may help families understand the issues," she said.
McLachlan said he had also spoken to Anita.
"In our discussions, Anita has been really clear that she wants the learnings from Danny's death to continue to provide a benefit to sport and we will continue to work with Anita and the family and researchers to learn as much as we can and to continue to make whatever changes are necessary to keep the people who play our game safe," McLachlan said.
The condition can impact personality and memory functions, with awareness of CTE's effects growing over the last decade.
Revered ruckman Graham 'Polly' Farmer was posthumously diagnosed with stage three CTE in 2019, after battling Alzheimer's in the latter years of his life.