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Concussed players need to delay their return: Williams

Stellar career ... Greg Williams stands in front of a large mural of himself in 1999.

Stellar career ... Greg Williams stands in front of a large mural of himself in 1999. Photo: Vince Caligiuri

Former champion Greg Williams believes AFL players who suffer concussion should be forced to wait for longer periods before they are allowed to return to the field.

The dual Brownlow medallist and AFL premiership player has spoken about his battle with a degenerative brain disease, which has eroded memories of his career and personal life.

Williams, 49, says his failing memory can be traced back to the heavy knocks he took while playing during his 250-match AFL career with Geelong, Sydney and Carlton.

He said the AFL should enforce vigorous concussion rules for players, naming stars such as Joel Selwood and Kurt Tippett as players "who get knocked out two or three times a year and nearly play every (time) the week after".

"There's different levels of concussion, and you're a certain level, if you get knocked out, there's got to be one month, two months off," Williams told SEN.

"They've got to get treatment and they've got to make sure they're right before they come back.

"They have got to do something about it and they've got to make sure it's protecting the player."

Williams was speaking the morning after a revealing interview he and his wife Mary did with Channel 7's Sunday Night program where he admitted he struggled to remember the highlight of his career, the 1995 Carlton premiership, despite winning the Norm Smith Medal as the best player.

"Obviously I know that I won the premiership in 1995 and things like that, but I don't remember a lot about the game, no I don't," he told Channel 7.

"I know I started '84 at Geelong, '86 I can remember, all those main dates, and the grand final loss in '93 and won the Brownlow in '94.

"But the specifics, as you say, like the grand final after the game in the rooms, I remember nothing about that."

Williams said that in his playing days there were no club rules regarding concussion. If you were knocked out and you recovered you were sent back on.

"If you didn't you were a wimp - it was just tradition, you got up and kept going," he said.

His wife Mary has noticed the changes in her husband of 26 years - his forgetfulness and his temper, which she said was becoming worse. "He'll snap at me for no reason, and you think, what's going on here?" she said.

She said the worst part would be if she had to care for him as he aged and he didn't recognise her.

Williams is suffering symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, which has been detected in athletes with a history of severe concussion and repetitive brain trauma.

He and former North Queensland rugby league player Shaun Valentine have undergone tests at Deakin University covering memory, dexterity and response times, with worrying results.

Their response times matched those of much older men. The doctor running the tests, Alan Pearce, even advised both men to see a neurologist.

But Williams said it wasn't all doom and gloom and he was aware of new urine tests being developed for athletes who suffered concussion.

"If you've got a minor concussion, well you're going to have to have a week off," he told SEN.

"If you get knocked out and you've got serious concussion, you're going to have a month or two months off before you're back to normal again.

"If you get concussion, you can get treatment that helps it during the months going forward."

Williams, who played in the AFL between 1984 and 1997, said he wanted to know about his predicament rather than turn a blind eye to his symptoms.

"I just wanted to get it out there that it is happening, and it has happened," he said.

"There's a lot of players ... I know teammates as well. I go to functions and see older players. I know they've got problems. They need help. They need treatment. And there are things you can do in regards to brain health.

"There are things you can do. I know it sounds all doom and gloom, but there are things you can do. People have to get diagnosed and treated."

With AAP

22 comments so far

  • Injuries and expectations, clubs, men and intestinal fortitude.

    Paying the price with health degeneration for a resolute committment seems a heavy toll for any sportsman or woman.

    Diesel, trucking on and on regardless, or unwittingly ignorant to the health facts. By participating in the research he again shows his true values. Take care and all the best.

    Commenter
    Wake in Fright
    Location
    NNE of Balranald
    Date and time
    February 25, 2013, 12:55PM
    • Another example of Vlad being asleep at the wheel. Time to go Vlad

      Commenter
      Gaz
      Location
      Yarrawonga
      Date and time
      February 26, 2013, 7:23AM
  • So as it is, many possible head injured players still HAVE to run off. Where is the Players Union on this?

    Commenter
    Mozza
    Location
    Bendigo
    Date and time
    February 25, 2013, 12:55PM
    • Funny......I grew up playing competitive basketball, due to my abilities I was representing in teams where my team mates were upto 7 years older than me. The result was an awful lot of physical clashes - including a lot to the head. Now, some days I can't remeber my childrens friends or even pets my children had. I am 46, I worry sometimes about how bad I will get into the future. Remember, its not just "men" but it is youths growing up when we are probably at most risk.....bit too late for me, but hopefully others will not have my memory and concentration problems if they (or their parents) read this

      Commenter
      Ye Old One
      Date and time
      February 25, 2013, 1:50PM
      • I never got a hit to the head once, but I can't remember what I had for breakfast. I am 49. It happens with age

        Commenter
        Johnny
        Location
        Albury
        Date and time
        February 26, 2013, 7:22AM
    • Bad luck for Williams, I remember a few players with head injuries received in games where he participated. I can see this excuse being tried out at tribunal hearings, you know the hearings that have no relation to the law just like all other AFL rules and regs.

      Commenter
      DHT
      Date and time
      February 25, 2013, 2:36PM
      • The damage is done by the initial knock. Sitting around for 20 minutes after it won't take away that knock or the damage done by it. The only way that helps is if it helps you to avoid getting a second knock on the head.... and for that, it would appear that the benefit of a longer rest is very marginal indeed.

        I think the answer is in the soft helmets worn by some players with great success over the years - Keith Narkle, Basil Campbell, Roly Daw.

        Commenter
        helmet
        Date and time
        February 25, 2013, 2:57PM
        • Research has shown that the helmets worn by players in the past do nothing to cushion the head when impacted, and is one reason players do not wear them now.

          Commenter
          DanB
          Location
          Melbourne
          Date and time
          February 26, 2013, 8:15AM
      • I realize there are sponsorship dollars and contracts to honor but why is it so hard to simply make a rule that as ordered by an independent doctor at each game, should a player suffer concussion they have an automatic two weeks off, and should they be knocked out cold on the field then automatic four weeks off from playing (or something along those lines). To make a rule that is binding on all clubs and removes any individual from corruption or pressure from clubs to pass a player fit have mandatory sentences. Then there is no possible argument. If the experts say longer then longer it will need to be.

        Commenter
        eyeswideopen
        Location
        earth
        Date and time
        February 25, 2013, 2:58PM
        • If we listen to all these 'pseudo experts' we would believe that players from previous eras are all walking about like zombies. The only thing more idiotic than these guys are the fools that listen to them.

          Commenter
          Artisand
          Location
          Melbourne
          Date and time
          February 25, 2013, 2:58PM

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