AFL: Contract triggers in spotlight as players shirk concussion protocols

AFL Players Association boss Paul Marsh says “it’s not unexpected” that players are increasingly trying to conceal concussions to avoid missing games.

The AFLPA will seek to have absences due to concussion exempted from contract incentives and triggers after it was found to be one of the top causes for men’s players to not report a concussion, according to the latest annual Insights and Impact report released on Tuesday.

The report found 24 per cent of AFL players (179) had sustained a concussion in the previous 12 months, but 12 per cent (21) did not report their symptoms.

Just under 10 per cent of 114 AFLW players who experienced a concussion over the same period did not report it to club staff, but the main reason was different – those players mostly said they did not recognise the symptoms as potentially concussion related.

Marsh said the AFLPA was “concerned” by the findings but had been aware of the trend in players not reporting their symptoms after previous reports.

“It’s a very serious injury, and part of what we’re trying to do here is use this to educate the players that this isn’t the right way forward here,” Marsh told SEN on Wednesday.

“Take the injury seriously, take the rest that’s needed, recover, because this is hopefully a long career, and you’re putting it at risk if you’re coming back too early.”

Marsh said he wanted to discuss removing or altering contract incentives and triggers with the AFL after it was found as one of the top reasons men’s players opted not to report concussion symptoms.

“Missing games, giving their spot up to somebody else, potentially missing contract incentives or triggers, they’re all issues that are related here,” he said.

“I think that’s a good discussions to have, that is a discussion that we’ll pick up with the AFL and the clubs because that is a potential reason here.

“Players maybe shouldn’t be penalised if they are taking a cautious approach to what is a serious issue.”

The report also said the broadening of criteria for player injury payments was expected to help reduce under-reporting of concussions, as more players would become eligible.

The updated model, which issues a payment based on how many senior games a player was expected to play while injured, now takes into account games played in the previous year.

Marsh said there were compensation options available to Western Bulldogs player Aiden O’Driscoll, who was medically retired on Tuesday following a major concussion during a pre-season training session months after he had been drafted.

“We’ll try to work now with Aiden and his family on what’s next, both from a compensation perspective but also a career perspective,” Marsh said.

The AFLPA chief executive said he was satisfied Geelong had followed the proper protocols in its handling of Jeremy Cameron’s delayed concussion from a collision during Friday night’s match against Port Adelaide.

“We’re comfortable with how the issue was handled … as far as we’re concerned, based on what the AFL is telling us, Geelong carried this out properly,” he said.

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