Fremantle Dockers' great Matthew Pavlich says CTE 'waiting game' a concern for AFL players


Former Fremantle Dockers captain and Nine News Perth sport presenter Matthew Pavlich has voiced his concerns over the potential for chronic traumatic encephalopathy – a neurodegenerative disease caused by repeated blows to the head – to affect AFL players.

Eric Mackenzie of the Eagles tackles Matthew Pavlich of the Dockers after a marking contest.

Eric Mackenzie of the Eagles tackles Matthew Pavlich of the Dockers after a marking contest.Credit:Paul Kane

It was announced Thursday that CTE was discovered in the brain of the late, legendary player Graham 'Polly' Farmer, the first time the disease had been detected in a player from the AFL.

Pavlich, a six-time Doig medallist, spoke to Nine News Perth's Michael Thompson about the "waiting game" past and present players would now have to endure – particularly those who had suffered serious knocks to the head.

"I am concerned as a former AFL player," Pavlich said. "I had three pretty significant concussions even prior to being drafted, and at least half a dozen while I was playing.

"I am concerned about my future."

Pavlich was president of the AFL Players' Association at the time the League strengthened rules surrounding concussions, but said he wasn't sure if the association went far enough.

"I'm not sure if they did [go far enough]," he said.

"They probably should have made some moves earlier to protect players with their heads over the ball.

"Was it enough? And did it occur early enough? I'm not sure."

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, the AFL said it had not yet seen the detailed report in relation to Farmer's diagnosis but supported the work of the Australian Sports Brain Bank and welcomed the learnings that may come from ongoing research.

The AFL thanked the Farmer family for their important contribution to the research.

"The health and safety of all players in our game is paramount and as knowledge and understanding of concussion has increased, the AFL has strengthened match day protocols, changed the laws of the game to further discourage high contact, and has improved the identification of potential concussive incidents through the use of video," the statement read.

"The AFL further strengthened the Concussion Management Guidelines for the 2020 AFL & AFLW seasons which reflects our ongoing conservative approach in managing concussions at the elite level."