AFL

AFL-linked concussion expert to speak at US conference

Kayne Turner of the Kangaroos is stretchered from the field.
North Melbourne youngster Kayne Turner was one of many players to suffer concussions during an AFL game in 2015. Photo: AFL Media/Getty Images

A concussion expert earmarked  to receive funding by the AFL is headed for the US to present at a conference on traumatic brain injuries.

Dr Alan Pearce leaves on Thursday for the four-day conference starting on January 24 in Santa Fe.

Pearce, who previously worked for Tennis Australia in a sports science role, rose to prominence in 2013 when he published a report on 20 former VFL/AFL footballers which found a connection between on-field concussion and long-term brain damage. The study took place while Pearce was employed by Deakin University. He has since left.

The AFL and AFL Players' Association have previously indicated their support to fund Pearce to help his research into sports concussions, although where the research will take place remains to be seen.

His presentation in Santa Fe will be on the topic of "Using transcranial magnetic stimulation to measure neurophysiological responses following concussion." 

The conference is partly being organised by Dr Ann McKee, director of Boston University's Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) Centre. A neuropathologist, Dr McKee is considered to be an expert in CTE,  the controversial degenerative head condition. In 2009 she testified about the effects of head knocks on professional athletes before the US House Judiciary Committee and was featured prominently in the 2013 documentary and book League of Denial, which sought to detail the history of the National Football League's management of concussions.

Most of speakers at the conference are American, although there will also be representatives from the United Kingdom, Chile, Israel, Sweden, Belgium and Canada.

Pearce's trip follows that of Associate Professor Paul McCrory, one of the members of the league's concussion working group, who attended an NFL-funded conference in London late last year.

The AFL has taken various steps in recent times to promote head safety, last month announcing harsher penalties for dangerous tackles – both on the field and at the match review panel.

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