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Injury claim in dispute

Samantha Lane
April 2, 2011

A CONCUSSION-related injury compensation claim involving another recently retired AFL player is in dispute and believed to be before, or headed to, the league’s Grievance Tribunal.

While neither the AFL Players Association nor the AFL would confirm knowledge of the claim, a well-placed source indicated it was significantly different to the one Daniel Bell is poised to make over the brain damage related to his concussions

While Bell has been supported by his former club Melbourne – which had no knowledge of the damage the 66-gamer had sustained until after he was delisted last September – it’s believed the basis of the claim made by another player is being challenged.

”We don’t discuss particular claims or grievances or compensations which we might have before us,” AFLPA CEO Matt Finnis said last night.

Bell’s decision to discuss his claim this week was atypical, although Chad Rintoul, applauding Bell for his bravery in coming forward, revealed the next day he had made a similar claim from Collingwood in 2003.

The Age also revealed that West Coast star and 1994 Norm Smith medallist Dean Kemp had an arduous experience with the AFL’s injury compensation procedures, though he eventually reached a six-figure settlement.

AFL football operations boss Adrian Anderson said last night he was made aware of all compensation cases, but would not confirm that a concussion-related case was in dispute.

While concussion, and the AFL industry’s management of the condition, is a highly sensitive issue, Finnis and Anderson agreed Bell’s frankness about his condition, and the circumstances that led to it, were ultimately positive from an educational perspective.

Rather than claiming he was medically mismanaged at Melbourne, Bell said he had argued to play when he knew he shouldn’t and ignored worrying symptoms.

Anderson said he welcomed players sharing stories. ”There’s no point sweeping these things under the carpet, they need to be addressed and taken head-on because it’s important to have the discussion.”

But he said players, doctors and the AFL, needed to take responsibility for the issue of concussion.

”What it [Bell’s story] does is highlight the importance of being open and honest about your doctor with these issues.

Hopefully it really is an indication to players that you’re only cheating yourself if you hide information from your doctor about these sorts of things and that you’re jeopardising your own long-time welfare and it’s just not worth it.

”I’d add that the concussion tests used by the doctors now have become a lot more sophisticated, even than they were in the last one or two years, and more difficult to fudge,” Anderson said.

”Hopefully attitudes are shifting and I think stories like Daniel’s hopefully contribute to that in a positive way.”

Finnis said the AFLPA met with AFL Medical Officers’ Association representatives last year specifically to discuss concussion management and that the competition’s most comprehensive and specific study of former players and their experience of head injuries would commence this season.

”Whether it’s Daniel Bell or Dean Kemp or Chad Rintoul … to the extent that they’re comfortable sharing those personal experiences I encourage them and I congratulate them,” he said.

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