The former Collingwood AFL player’s upcoming concussion lawsuit is a concern for our entire nation

Emma Grant, who debuted with the Collingwood Magpies in 2017 and retired from the AFL in 2020, is now suing Collingwood Football Club for negligence.

Grant claims the club failed in their duty of care to her after she suffered a concussion that forced an early end to her career.

In her four years with the Magpies, Grant played a total of 20 games after showing promise in her first draft.

In one of their first training games, Grant played in a different position each quarter. She later became known for her versatility and began her career as a forward but eventually played in both midfield and defence.

In January 2020, Grant suffered a severe concussion during a preseason practice game. She was subsequently unable to play for the remainder of the season and announced her retirement two months later.

Only 30 at the time, Grant said, “In the end, I made the decision to put my health first.”

In the same media release, the club said: “A debilitating and protracted recovery from concussion did not allow her to put the black and white sweater back on.”

Grant has now launched a civil lawsuit against the association.

According to legal documents, Grant suffered a head injury on January 18, 2020 and was allowed to return to training on February 5, just two and a half weeks later.

That decision, according to Grant’s legal representatives, “fell below a reasonable standard of care” and, as a result, plaintiff “suffered injury, loss and damage.”

Grant’s case is not an isolated one, and it appears Australia is only now catching up on putting its athletes at risk by exposing them to concussion.

There is currently an ongoing Senate inquiry taking place in Canberra, covering four of the nation’s sporting codes – the National Rugby League, Rugby Australia, Boxing Australia and Football Australia.

The investigation has dealt extensively with the dangers and risks of concussions.

“Australia is addicted to contact sports in many ways,” researcher Stephen Townsend said at the research. “We love it even though it kills us.”

The research has shone a spotlight on Australia’s historical love of contact sports and our relationship to the risks involved. Our nation’s sporting legacy may have overshadowed the negative impact it can have on our athletes.

Sport in our country, as Townsend describes it, is ultimately “too culturally and economically important to change.”

Collingwood's Emma Grant is tackled during a 2018 AFLW match.

Collingwood’s Emma Grant is tackled during a 2018 AFLW match. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

The daughter of rugby league legend Steve Folkes also volunteered to speak before the Senate and provided her personal account of the impact the concussion damage had on her father.

Folkes, who played 245 games for the Canterbury Bulldogs and represented NSW nine times in the home state, became the first NRL player to be diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is a degenerative brain disease thought to be caused by repetitive blows to the head, common in martial arts such as boxing.

However, head and concussion injuries are equally common in both Aussie Rules and rugby league, and not only occur at matches but often in training as well.

The culture around athletes not reporting injuries to their coaches or not recognizing the symptoms or recognizing a concussion seems commonplace in all combat and contact sports.

There is a clear need for coaches and institutions to adequately educate not only themselves but also the athletes in their care about the long-term risks their sport exposes them to. Additionally, it appears there is still a lack of safe practices to better offset the damage of a concussion.

The same law firm representing Grant has also announced plans to launch a class action lawsuit against the AFL, similar to the class action lawsuits filed by American footballers against the NFL that resulted in a $1 billion settlement.

The firm intends to pursue the class action lawsuit on behalf of potentially hundreds of players in the AFL and AFLW.

The company’s chief executive, Michel Margalit, said: “The price for Australian society’s enjoyment of the game is a commitment to looking after our players. The time has come to change and do the right thing.” The former Collingwood AFL player's upcoming concussion lawsuit is a concern for our entire nation

Russell Falcon

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