'It's been a big day for me': Smith wants change after $1.4m concussion payout

 The Age

By Roy Ward

Retired AFL player Shaun Smith hopes the league will make serious changes to how it manages concussed players after he received a $1.4 million insurance payout due to damage from his playing career.

The 51-year-old former Melbourne and North Melbourne player has suffered ongoing mental health issues which he believes are connected to a number of concussions suffered during his football career.

"This time 11 months ago I was in a mental institution in my hospital room and had hit rock bottom basically," Smith told 3AW on Friday morning.

"I had nothing in my pockets at all so it’s going to make a massive difference. It will allow me to go on with the next stage of my life and flow onto my kids as well.

"It's been a big day for me."

Smith credited his mother with first noticing his issues.


Shaun Smith has been given an insurance payout for concussion.

Shaun Smith has been given an insurance payout for concussion.CREDIT:AGE

"I knew there was an issue as my mum said, 'You've changed', and you know you have an issue when your mum says that as she knows you best," Smith said.

"I have a bit of a list [of problems]. It does affect you day to day. Some days you wake up and you are just not right. You wake up in a fog while other days you wake up and feel fine.

"I haven't been very responsible. Some days I would ring up [work] and say 'I just can't get out of bed' and that's not good for an employer as they want reliable staff.

"At the moment I just don't trust myself with working as I don't know what I'm going to get day to day."

The payout and the recognition from an insurer that concussion-related damages are real is something Smith hopes will force the AFL to further change how it manages its players after they are concussed.

The AFL has improved its practices when players are hurt on field and do follow-up testing before clearing players to return but Smith wants mandatory time out of the game when a player has concussion.

He is also concerned about footballers at junior and lower levels who could be suffering from similar head knocks.

"It makes concussion real," Smith said. "People think 'Oh yeah, you get knocked out, you take a week off and you are all right' but it's extremely accumulative and eventually it catches up with you.

"The footy codes need to realise that if you get knocked out you can't play next week or the week after. I think about boxing where if you get knocked out I think you have to have six to eight weeks off. So why is AFL any different?

"If you go back too early you will do serious damage and there are a whole bunch of guys like John Barnes, lots of other guys, who are doing it tough for that very reason."

In junior football, Smith believes any concussion should result in a player sitting out the season.

"If you get knocked out as a kid I think you have to have a whole year off," Smith said.

"I'm no expert but I think you have to go hardcore on it otherwise you will keep having guys like myself and plenty more out there at local levels. There are plenty more."

Smith took out total and permanent disablement insurance as a 26-year-old on advice from the person who was arranging his superannuation, and Smith followed up on the policy which differs from the policy that AFL players from his era had.

I was working, back then you played footy and you worked," Smith said.

"I had a couple of properties and was working out my super and the guy organising it said 'Why don't you take out some life insurance to make sure your family is comfortable?' And I didn't realise he had put TPD insurance in it. So it was a bit of a fluke doing it 26 years ago.

"I can't remember the guy's name but thank you for doing that."

It was revealed this year that AFL greats Danny Frawley and Graham "Polly" Farmer were posthumously diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

 
 

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