Former Aussie Rules player’s suicide spurs call for brain donations

A Melbourne coroner has called on Australian Rules players to pledge to donate their brains to science after death to aid research into chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), local media reported on Tuesday.

Paresa Spanos made the appeal after giving her findings in the death of former Australian Rules player Danny Frawley, who was discovered after his death in September 2019 to have had the concussion-related disease.

Frawley, a standout player for the St Kilda team in the Australian Football League (AFL) in the 1980s and 1990s, took his own life the day after his 56th birthday by driving his car into a tree.

CTE, a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated concussions, can only be detected when the brain is examined after death and has been linked to mental health issues.

Spanos said AFL players should be actively encouraged to donate their brains to the Australian Sports Brain Bank after death to enable more studies on the links between CTE and neurological dysfunction, the ABC reported.

Australian Rules is one of several contact sports around the world starting to deal with the long-term consequences of players receiving repeated head-knocks during their careers.

The National Football League in the United States set up a $1 billion fund in 2016 to compensate thousands of former players who suffered brain injuries linked to repeated concussions.

According to a report in Guardian Australia last week, the AFL is in discussions to form a similarly-sized fund to compensate former Australian Rules players.

The league introduced new rules this year forcing players who have been concussed to be sidelined for 12 days rather than six previously.

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