News – AU – Coroner investigating Danny Frawley death urges AFL players to donate brains to science


A Victorian coroner has recommended AFL players donate their brains to science to help advance researchers’ understanding of the brain disease CTE

Victorian coroner Paresa Spanos made the recommendation after investigating the death of AFL star Danny Frawley, who died in a car accident in September 2019 at the age of 56

An autopsy revealed that Mr. Frawley had a “low” CTE – chronic traumatic encephalopathy – that has been associated with repeated blows to the head

Ms. Spanos noted that CTE is “potentially contributing” to the depression Mr. Frawley suffered prior to his death

During his career, he suffered about 20 concussions and was hospitalized five or six times for treatment, the coroner said

Ms. Spanos noted that in the time immediately before his death, Mr. Frawley’s anxiety and depression had been aggravated by “personal and professional stressors”

However, she said the evidence available does not suggest which of these stressors caused or contributed to his death

The player, coach and commentator of the St The Kilda Hall of Fame has been open about his mental health issues, but it is unknown how many of his problems are related to CTE

The disease can only be diagnosed through an autopsy, so it was impossible to tell how much and when it might have changed Mr. Frawley’s personality or emotions, the coroner said

Ms. Spanos said there is a lack of knowledge of CTE in Australia and internationally and that further research is needed to determine how the disease is contributing to brain dysfunction

Because of this, she advised the AFL and the AFL Players Association to “actively encourage” players – and their legal representatives after their deaths – to donate their brains to the Australian Sports Brain Bank (ASSB) for the understanding of the community to promote the condition

She also recommended changes to coronial processes conducted by the Victorian State Coroner and the Director of the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine

This included identifying a history of severe or minor repetitive head trauma early and ensuring that brain samples were examined and retained to determine if a CTE was present

Mr. Frawley was the second prominent AFL player to be diagnosed with CTE after Graham “Polly” Framer After his death in 2019 at the age of 84, he was found to have the disease

In January, the ASSB also confirmed that former Richmond player Shane Tuck had suffered from severe CTE when he died last July at the age of 38

The death of Mr Tuck was a shock not only because of his age, but also because he had kept silent about the extent of his mental health problems

The presence of the disease in the brains of former players forced the AFL to act, and in January the league introduced new rules on concussion

Starting this year, players who are hit on the head must take a break of at least 12 days

At the time, AFL General Counsel Andrew Dillon called the new rules “the strictest concussion protocols in Australian sport”

A recent five-year study by AFL players from Monash University showed that protein Neurofilament Light (NfL) levels were elevated in their brain for at least two weeks after they were affected

Study author Stuart McDonald said the university’s research on other sports showed that elevated NfL levels were still prevalent a month after a concussion, suggesting that many athletes risked further harm by too returned to the game early

We recognize the Aboriginal people and the Torres Strait Islander as the first Australians and traditional administrators of the countries where we live, learn and work

This service may contain material from Agence France-Presse (AFP), APTN, Reuters, AAP, CNN, and the BBC World Service that is copyrighted and cannot be reproduced

AEST = Australian Eastern Standard Time, 10 hours before GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)

Danny Frawley, Australian Football League, St Kilda Football Club, Research, Major Depression, Dementia pugilistica, Anita Frawley, Coroner

News – AU – Coroner investigates Danny Frawley’s death and calls on AFL to ask players to donate brains to science