The AFL is set to face a class action from former players suffering from the effects of concussion, with a Melbourne law firm signalling it is preparing to go to the Victorian Supreme Court seeking compensation.
Margalit Injury Lawyers released a statement on Monday morning confirming their intent to take the action, after speaking to "numerous" injured male and female players.
The firm's managing principal, Michel Margalit, said that following class actions brought in the United States by American footballers against the NFL resulting in a $1 billion settlement, she believed severely injured former AFL players could be awarded compensation of more than $2 million each for their pain and suffering and economic loss.
“Players often enter into AFL careers as teenagers, without the life experience or perspective to understand the life-long debilitating impacts of concussion. These players need to be protected and adequately cared for if injured.”
The firm has spoken to current and former players who are willing to join the class action.
Concussion and head knocks in football have become more high-profile issues in recent years, in part due to the deaths of former AFL players Shane Tuck and Danny Frawley who were diagnosed post-mortem with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which has been linked to repeated blows to the head.
The AFL said it took "concussion and the protection of the brain health of all those playing our game extremely seriously", citing changes made to concussion protocols, tribunal guidelines and on-field rules in the past 20 years to protect players' heads and improve the response to head knocks "in accordance with current and evolving science".
The Senate Inquiry Into Concussions and Repeated Head Trauma in Contact Sports held a public hearing in Brisbane last week, however no representatives from the AFL, NRL or Rugby Australia made a submission.
The inquiry has received a number of submissions from individuals and groups, all making recommendations for change, from adapted rules to more research funding and an Australia-wide concussion registry.
In a submission lodged with the inquiry, Margalit Injury Lawyers says former players may also be able to individually sue the AFL or their clubs for negligence.
The law firm is echoing calls for an overhaul of current workers' compensation schemes, given professional sport players are exempt from coverage.
"As it stands, AFL players are excluded from seeking WorkCover in Victoria which stop them making claims for medical and other expenses and weekly payments,'' Ms Margalit said.