Former Australian rules player gets $1 million payout for repeated concussions

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Former Australian rules player Shaun Smith has welcomed a A$1.4 million ($1.02 million) insurance payout for brain damage he suffered after sustaining repeated concussions during his playing career.

The insurance company accepted that Smith was “totally and permanently disabled” as a result of the head knocks he suffered playing for the North Melbourne and Melbourne clubs in the Australian Football League (AFL) in the 1980s and 1990s.

“I’m just happy that it’s finally been recognised,” the 51-year-old told the ABC.

“I just hope that the AFL listen, because it’s people’s health at risk.”

Smith, who took out his own private insurance policy, said the injuries had a big impact on his everyday life.

“I’m a pretty easy-going guy, and I was getting pretty angry at the drop of a hat,” he added.

“Then I started forgetting a lot of things, my short-term memory especially was not flash. It just goes on and on, and it doesn’t make it much fun for people living around me.”

CTE, a degenerative disease linked to repeated concussions, has been discovered in the brains of deceased contact sport athletes who experienced repetitive brain trauma.

The National Football League in the United States has faced lawsuits from multiple former players over the league’s past handling of concussions and care for ailing retired players.

The AFL told Australian Associated Press (AAP) that in recent years it had changed the laws of the game to discourage head contact and invested in research into the impact of concussion.

“Earlier this year the AFL made changes to the concussion guidelines for the 2020 season to reflect our ongoing conservative approach in managing concussions at the elite level,” the league added.

“These guidelines will continue to be reviewed based on expert medical advice and research.”

($1 = 1.3667 Australian dollars)

Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Peter Rutherford