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Survey to help uncover long-term impact of concussion in elite AFL players

Survey to help uncover long-term impact of concussion in elite AFL players
December 4, 2013

Results from an upcoming survey of former AFL players on concussion will determine whether individuals should seek further screening and assessment.

The confidential information gathered through the online survey will also be aimed at improving understanding of the long-term impact of concussion.

The research project, a joint initiative of the AFL, the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health and the AFL Players Association, will seek the views of 2035 former players via the AFLPA's online monthly newsletter.

The survey will be simple to complete and open to players across eras, creating a database for more scientific examination as well as identifying players who require in depth assessment.

AFL Medical Director Peter Harcourt said former players were valuable resources as the scientific community attempts to build knowledge on the potential long-term effects of concussion.

Harcourt explained "the management of concussion remains an issue of increasing concern for sportspeople at elite and sub-elite levels everywhere.

"It is a key health and welfare issue for Australian footballers, past and present, which requires a measured, informed and scientific approach."

Harcourt said the survey was another step in the AFL's focus on concussion management and research.

In recent seasons rules have been modified to protect the head while doctors have been given time to make proper sideline assessments of players suspected of suffering concussion and substituting of players diagnosed with concussion has become mandatory.

Harcourt stated "the survey is a continuation of a series of proactive efforts by the AFL over many years to increase knowledge and awareness of concussion issues and, more recently, to modify the rules of the game to better protect the head and neck of players."

The AFL has also committed funds to research in the area and has a concussion working party that meets regularly.

Concussion has become a major issue for contact sports around the world, with the diagnosis of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in former NFL players in the United States receiving extensive coverage.

Harcourt has continued to emphasise the differences between AFL and NFL but acknowledges that former AFL players have justification given the coverage to have concerns about the possible impact of concussion.

He concludes "Australian football is a very different sport, however, the concern of past and present AFL players is understandable which is why the AFL and the Florey continues to undertake important research."

The AFL entered into a collaborative partnership with the Florey Institute in March 2013 as it hosted the first Concussion in Football Conference in Australia.

The aim of that partnership is to better understand the causes and long term impacts of concussion by utilising the latest imaging technology and other advanced scientific techniques, as well as liaising with global experts in the field.

The partnership was expected to attract funding, improve screening processes to identify players at risk of long-term issues and improve decision making about concussed players returning to play or training.

Current players undergo imaging when they are concussed.

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