Former Australian Rules player Shaun Smith has been awarded a AUS $ 1.4 million (US $1 million) insurance pay-out for brain damage caused by concussion from his playing days. It is regarded as a landmark award in Australian sport.
Smith, who was a well-known figure in the game during the 1980s and 1990s, had claimed that he was no longer able to work, and that he had suffered related medical problems due to the continued effects of concussion, and an expert panel has now agreed with him.
He is fortunate that, 25 years ago, he chose to take out disability cover as part of his life insurance policy most of his peers in the game chose not to do so.
Australian Rules Football is the most popular sport in the country, with a quarter of the population tuning into the watch the Grand Final every year. It is a high contact sport played on an oval pitch and is something of a hybrid between rugby and football. Due to the intense physical nature of the game, head injuries amongst players, who do not wear protective head covering, are relatively common.
It highlights yet again, the long-term impact of concussion in contact sports, which has become an increasingly important issue in recent years.
In 2016, the NFL in the USA made a settlement of US $1 billion in favour of a group of retired American football players who had suffered lasting brain damage due to concussion.
And, in Australia, two years ago, a study of 25 former National Rugby League (NRL) players found that all of them had suffered some for of long-term mental impairment.
Meanwhile, the issue of concussion due to heading the ball in football (soccer) was highlighted by the death of former England footballer, Jeff Astle, who died at the age of 59 in 2002. An autopsy later attributed the cause as brain damage caused by repeatedly heading a wet, heavy ball in his playing days.
His family set up a charity into his name to investigate the subject further, and thanks to their efforts, and many other like them, clearly causal evidence has been found linking concussion to brain damage.
As a result, heading is now banned in youth soccer in many countries, and some have even called for it to be eliminated from the game altogether.