The discovery of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in former Collingwood champion Murray Weideman, who died in February aged 85, should encourage administrators of contact sports to consider modifying rules for junior sport according to neuroscientist and concussion expert, Dr.Alan Pearce.
The Age confirmed that the Australian Sports Brain Bank diagnosed Stage 2 CTE and intermediate Alzheimer’s when Associate Professor Michael Buckland examined Weideman’s brain posthumously.
He is the fourth former AFL player along with Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer, Danny Frawley and Shane Tuck to be found with the presence of CTE in their brain after they died with the disorder linked to mood swings and depression.
“We need more independent research to keep understanding this disease,” Pearce said.
Pearce, who works for the Victorian branch of the Australian Sports Brain Bank, said the findings indicated that sports had a responsibility to look after those suffering the impact of head knocks. He said sporting bodies needed to also tackle the issue at junior level.
“One thing we do know about CTE is that it is a disease of exposure so we may have to ask the hard questions on modifying sport for juniors before taking it up to full contact into mid-to-late teenagers even,” Pearce said.
The AFL has appointed Associate Professor Catherine Willmott as head of concussion innovation and research and Rachel Elliott as head of concussion and healthcare governance, while making rule adjustments at the elite level. They also introduced a 12-day concussion protocol which forces players to sit on the sidelines for at least 12 days if they suffer a concussion.
Pearce is an advocate for players being forced to take a 30-day break if concussed rather than 12 saying research based on symptoms was an inadequate assessment with physiological and biological-based research demonstrating a 30-day break was necessary.
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