HAWTHORN premiership captain David Parkin is prepared to donate his brain to an AFL brain bank when he dies as the league probes the link between concussion and brain damage.
Parkin, who describes himself as the most concussed man in football, had 13 concussions, the last of which ended his career when he woke 26 hours after the blow.
Carlton great Greg Williams rocked football last year when spoke of the memory loss and mood swings caused by concussion and former Sydney hard man Jude Bolton is also worried by his many concussions.
The AFL has commissioned world-leading research through the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, which is investigating links between concussion and long-term damage, including brain injuries, depression and cognitive function.
Through the AFL Players’ Association, it plans to audit as many as 5000 former players, screen them for long-term issues and plan strategies to help those such as Williams.
“If they need brains to look at, there is not a more concussed brain than mine, so I am happy to give it to them,’’ said Parkin, 71, a member of the AFL’s medical research board.
“I am the most concussed player to play the game. I had a glass jaw, so I had 13 concussions over 15 seasons.
“I would be one who would be donating if that’s what they want. If we need a campaign, I would be delighted to provide whatever impetus I can.”
“I am just pleased we are on the front foot with rule changes and attitudes to concussion, and we lead the world in terms of that research’’ – Parkin
The AFL and Melbourne’s Florey Institute say they are looking at all aspects of concussion in football and its effects.
The league says it is determined to help players.
Professor Paul McCrory, of the Florey Institute, wants Parkin to lead a campaign for former players to build a brain bank. They would be assessed regularly and donate their brains when they die.
Parkin was considered one of the hardest players of his era but paid the price for it.
“I am just pleased we are on the front foot with rule changes and attitudes to concussion, and we lead the world in terms of that research,’’ he said.
“The last one, I got knocked out at 2.05pm on Saturday and woke up at 4.20pm on Sunday. I was out for 26 hours and that finished my career.
“In a state game in South Australia, I woke up in Adelaide hospital 12 hours after I got hit. And when I got hit, I went out. It was a very alarming time.”
McCrory said former players such as Parkin could have their brains added to the nearly 3000 used for medical research in a program governed by the National Health and Medical Research Council.
The brain bank collects brains for research, including from those who have suffered neurological problems, multiple sclerosis, dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
“We would like to enrol AFL footballers in the brain bank program,’’ McCrory said.
“From the players’ point of view, it would mean being checked out during life, examined and X-rayed, and then, assuming they live to a ripe old age, we could re-examine them and then eventually when they die, their brain would be given to the brain bank for more detailed analysis.
“David has championed this particular study for retired players. He had been very proactive about educating players and coaches about this issue.”
WHAT THE AFL IS DOING ABOUT CONCUSSION
— Players are banned from returning to the field if diagnosed with concussion, and are given a 20-minute substitution window to be assessed by doctors.
— Laws have been consistently introduced to protect players’ heads and ensure they do not duck into tackles.
— The AFLPA and league have banded together with the Florey Institute to form a partnership to study concussion’s effects.
— Concussion management guidelines are handed to suburban and junior clubs urging caution in the treatment of head knocks.
— The league hosted a concussion global conference on concussion and sport in Melbourne last year.
— AFLPA executive Ian Prendergast last year conducted a study tour as the player union seeks to better understand concussion’s effects.
-Every one of the AFL’s past players will be asked about their exposure to concussion, with further medical tests on those who are battling ill effects.
— The league is seeking $3 million in private funding so Florey can establish a Centre of Excellence for AFL concussion research.
This article was originally published in the Herald Sun and can be accessed here.