But Jess, who successfully sought a head trauma insurance pay out for former AFL player Shaun Smith this year, said on Tuesday tighter regulations were still needed in both the men’s and women’s competition, suggesting a confirmed concussion require a mandatory month off.
“Clearly, all of the findings tells us that your brain has not returned to normal under 30 days. If you have another sub-concussion or concussion inside 30 days, you are more likely to suffer long-term outcomes,” he said.
“The brain’s ability to deal with recurrent concussions is lessened, which is why we have had more than 20 AFL players retire in the last four years under the age of 25 – that we know of.”
In the letter, WorkSafe confirmed it had gone to the AFL in January and February and sought information and documents.
It had also appointed two experts in “sports-related concussion” to provide “technical” advice, with those experts tabling reports on June 26 and July 31. Further questions were asked of the experts in October, with an internal report by WorkSafe to have also been been completed by the end of October.
“WorkSafe is committed to carefully considering this matter to ensure it determines the appropriate response from a compliance and enforcement perspective,” the letter read.
Jess said he had sought a copy of the reports but WorkSafe had refused to acquiesce.
“If WorkSafe have found that the return-to-play protocols are not safe, the AFL would not be able to start the 2021 season until they are safe,” Jess said.
“This is the first time in the world we have required a peak health government organisation to make an assessment on whether a sporting organisation is safe.
“They have already agreed football clubs are a workplace and they are subject to OHS requirements of WorkSafe, which is important. There are significant reporting responsibilities that flow from that, including for the AFL Commission. We are seeing intergenerational damage that needs to be addressed.”
Comment was sought from WorkSafe. In the letter, Hill said she was “of the view the AFL will have a duty as an employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practical, that persons other than the employees of the employer (which may include AFL footballers) are not exposed to risks to their health and safety arising from the conduct of their undertaking”.
The AFL continues to monitor all facets of the concussion debate and on Tuesday pointed to its recent advertisement for a “concussion lead” to join the league to consolidate the management of its head trauma and concussion responses.
Jess continues to build towards a possible class action against the AFL but costs are an issue. Former players who could be a party to the case include John Barnes, Greg Williams, Ted and John Fidge, Rod Owen, John Platten and Smith.
Jon Pierik is cricket writer for The Age. He also covers AFL and has won awards for his cricket and basketball writing.