While head-high incidents and collisions are very common in Australian Rules football and rugby, a particular case has recently focused the attention of sports commentators and experts in Australian Rules football: Adelaide midfielder David Mackay’s unpunished “bump” (tackle), which left his opponent knocked out with a broken jaw. The reason this incident attracted so much attention is because it was viewed as a test case in the AFL’s bid to protect players’ heads amid increasing concern about concussion and long-term health and financial implications. It also highlights an issue that is common to all sports: the tension between the need to protect player welfare and to maintain the physicality and attractiveness of competitions.
This article is split into two parts. The first part summarises the general state of the situation regarding concussion in Australia and overseas. It argues that Australian leagues have a legal and moral duty, as well as a financial interest to protect athletes through appropriate rules of play and sanctions. The second part then provides an in-depth analysis of the Mackay case, illustrating the room for improvement that still remains in the AFL’s approach to preventing concussion. It concludes with a summary of the main findings and proposals.
Click on this link for a pdf version of the full article.
This piece was written for and first published by LawInSport. The original is available to view here.