Noel Teasdale – former North Melbourne AFL player.Photo: Alistair Brightman
Noel Teasdale – former North Melbourne AFL player.Photo: Alistair Brightman

AFL legend shares concerns about concussion

AFL: AFL Hall of Fame player and North Melbourne legend Noel Teasdale is watching with interest how the AFL reacts to a potential class action by players due to concussions and brain injuries suffered while playing.

The possible class action follows Graham "Polly" Farmer being diagnosed with CTE week.

CTE or chronic traumatic incephalopathy is believed to be caused by repeated head knocks and concussions and only able to be diagnosed after death.

The disease has become prevalent in former NFL, boxing and soccer players.

Former NRL player Steve Folkes was diagnosed last year after his death. Yesterday, former State of Origin and Broncos player Carl Webb was diagnosed with early-onset motor neurone disease.

The Hervey Bay resident is well versed in AFL head knocks and concussions after receiving a serious injury in 1964. Teasdale clashed heads with teammate Ken Dean and suffered a depressed fracture to his sinus bone. He required surgery including the opening of his skull to repair the damage.

Against the advice of doctors Teasdale returned to the AFL field four weeks later wearing a headguard.

He became the first AFL player to wear head protection.

The headguard was made of layer upon layer of fibreglass and it covered his forehead and part of his nose.

The 1965 joint Brownlow medallist was not about to stop playing due to a head injury and the headguard became his trademark.

"In those days it was seen as a badge of honour to get back on the field to show how tough you were," he said.

Teasdale understands that times have changed and believes that the AFL has to do more to protect the players.

"The game is not as tough today but the players are bigger and faster. The game is different from my time but players still need to be protected," he said.

He believes that the AFL needs to conduct solid research into concussion numbers to get the full picture.

"They need to check with all current and past players to get the full picture," Teasdale said.

He will watch from afar believing if compensation is awarded to players then he should receive a share as well.

"If there is compensation it would be a shame to miss out as I was one of the most serious head injuries in the game that I can remember," he said.

Teasdale is unable to say with certainty if he has suffered brain injury from his AFL days but does suffer from uncontrollable shakes in his right hand and stutters when he becomes agitated.

"I never had these when I was younger or during my playing days," he said.

He believes the AFL needs to get on the front foot and take the decision out of the players' and clubs' hands by appointing an independent panel of doctors to assess player concussions.

"It is the only way to ensure the diagnose stay consistent," he said.

The Polly Farmer diagnosis cut close to home for Teasdale as Farmer worked for him as a sales rep for Scottish Amicable Insurance while he played.