Football legend Gary Ablett Sr is suing the AFL and two clubs, seeking millions of dollars in compensation for ongoing damage suffered from concussions.
Ablett on Monday launched proceedings in the Victorian Supreme Court against the AFL, Geelong Football Club and Hawthorn Football Club.
The 61-year-old claims he suffered concussions while training and playing throughout his VFL/AFL career, between 1982 and 1997.
He alleges the sporting organisations knew or ought to have known the potential long-term consequences of concussion and he was more vulnerable because of head strikes playing as a key forward.
The AFL and two clubs owed Ablett a duty of care and should have avoided exposing him to unnecessary risk of harm, the court writ states.
Ablett alleges the organisations breached that duty and were negligent and he has subsequently suffered loss, injury and damage as a result of the concussions.
“Symptoms include memory loss, anxiety and depression,” Ablett’s lawyer Michel Margalit, from Margalit Injury Lawyers, told AAP.
“It’s particularly difficult to manage these degenerative concussion-related injuries in the face of being such a high-profile public figure because the anonymity does not exist.”
Ablett – who is claiming damages, interests and costs – is seeking compensation in the millions of dollars, Ms Margalit said.
That figure reflected years of medical expenses and the ongoing cost of care, she said.
An AFL spokesman said player health and safety was a top priority, with more than 30 changes made to concussion protocols, tribunal guidelines and on-field rules over the past two decades to protect players’ heads.
“The AFL has a team of people specifically working on brain health initiatives… and we continue to strengthen protocols and the education of clubs and players as to why this issue is taken so seriously,” he told AAP in a statement.
Geelong and Hawthorn have been contacted for comment.
Public concerns around concussion were reignited three years ago when former Richmond player Shane Tuck died after a battle with mental health.
An autopsy found the 38-year-old had the deadly neurodegenerative disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
The condition was found in other prominent former players including Danny Frawley and Graham “Polly” Farmer, who both donated their brains to research.
Tuck’s family last month joined Melbourne player Shaun Smith and Adelaide premiership star Darren Jarman in leading a class action against the AFL over concussion-related injuries.
A separate class action from Margalit Injury Lawyers is also seeking up to $1 billion in compensation from the league.
Ms Margalit said it was unlikely Ablett would join the class action because he started playing Australian rules football years before the other plaintiffs.
But she expected other former footballers to come forward with their own claims.
“Players are beginning to realise that these very unpleasant symptoms that they are suffering are not personal failings, but rather symptoms of an injury,” she said.
Ablett’s statement of claim will be filed in the Supreme Court in the coming months before the defendants put forward their response.
Ablett played 248 games for Hawthorn and Geelong, kicking 1031 goals. He is part of the AFL’s Team of the Century and the league’s hall of fame.
Lifeline 13 11 14
beyondblue 1300 22 4636
(Australian Associated Press)