WE can introduce rules to help prevent concussion. We can severely suspend players who cause an opponent concussion. But the only way to truly try and prevent concussion in football is to introduce the compulsory wearing of helmets.
Players have worn them before.
Hawthorn's Jason Dunstall, St.Kilda's Nathan Bourke and Shaun Hart who played with the Brisbane Lions are champions who succeeded at the top level wearing a helmet for part or all of their careers. I remember playing for the North Ballarat Rebels as a kid and coming across a young Jimmy Bartel who wore one for the Geelong Falcons in the TAC Cup under-18s.
Maybe I'm one of the lucky ones because I have never been knocked out in my football career. Maybe I should now go and touch some wood.
I received a whack to my nose in a marking contest against Richmond and I'll admit it stung like hell, left me a bit dazed and feeling ill. The nausea lasted for about five minutes and then subsided and I was completely fine in the second half. Looking back, perhaps the hit actually did me a favour and gave me the slap I needed to wake me up and get me into the game.
Of course, I am just kidding and the issue of concussions in AFL and any contact sport for that matter is no laughing matter.
Adelaide's Kurt Tippett has been knocked out three times in five matches prompting the Crows' medical staff to send him to Melbourne to see a neurosurgeon, specialising in sporting concussions. His on-field issues have also sparked debate about the danger of fielding players after several heavy knocks and the long-term damage to health that could be caused. Some experts say the forward should be rested for the remainder of the year, but the Crows remain hopeful he'll make a return in time for the finals or possibly earlier against Essendon.
The main thing is Kurt's long term health and well being. At no stage should a player's safety be jeopardised.
The AFL continually uses the term 'duty of care' and reminds players of their responsibilities on the field of play. For me, it's insulting to insinuate that we'd ever look to attack an opponent's head with the intent to hurt them or knock them out. While I agree the head should be sacrosanct, players have grown up playing the game a certain way and need some time to adapt.
Players are now second-guessing themselves when the ball is there to be won and I feel for the likes of Jack Ziebell who only knows how to play one way; full on. New head-high contact rules, outlawing the 'bump' or 'shirtfront' have been positive steps but I hope we never stop players from attacking the ball because they fear if they make incidental contact, they may be suspended.
Rugby Union has outlawed the so called 'shoulder charge' and the NRL is now considering banning it after Greg Inglis KO'd Dean Young last week when he used it and made contact with the head. He was suspended for five games initially, but had it reduced to three after an appeal.
For me, the key is intent. Did the player intend to hit his opponent high or was he going for the ball? If it's the latter, then let's get on with it and stop all this mucking about. If there was malice, then throw the book at them, you won't hear any arguments from me.
Brad Scott rightly points out that when you play a full-contact and brutal game like AFL, there are going to accidental collisions, heavy bumps and unintentional head-high hits. We need to accept this and not try and punish those involved in order to appease parents who might be considering which sport to allow their kids to play.
Well I'll say to those parents right now, if you want your kids to play a sport where the chances of them receiving a knock to the head are zero, pick darts or snooker, because guess what? There are even head clashes in non-contact sport like soccer and basketball.
Helmet or no helmet, we will be butting heads on this issue for some time yet.