News – AU – Urge AFL players to donate brains after Danny Frawley’s tragic death


A coroner who investigated the death of AFL star Danny Frawley wants players to donate their brains to research

A coroner wants the AFL to encourage players to donate their brains to research after they die after investigating the death of former champion player Danny FrawleySource: Herald Sun

A Victorian coroner wants AFL players to donate their brains to research after an investigation into the death of AFL Champion Danny Frawley

Frawley – for nine seasons coach, commentator and captain of the St Kilda Football Club – died in a car accident in Millbrook in September 2019

A post-mortem study of his brain found he had low-stage chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) – a form of the brain disease associated with repeated blows to the head

During his stellar career, Frawley suffered about 20 concussions, including loss of consciousness, severe headaches, and visual disturbances

CTE, which cannot be diagnosed until after death, is associated with changes in mood and behavior, and occasionally cognitive and memory disorders

Frawley, 56, has had a history of mental health problems and in the months leading up to his death his mental health began to worsen

Coroner Paresa Spanos said Tuesday the evidence supported a finding that Frawley had committed suicide and appeared to coincide with drug cessation and stress prior to his death

Ms. Spanos said there was no evidence that the stressor caused or contributed to Frawley’s death

However, she noted that CTE was a potential contributing factor to the depression Frawley suffered from in the preceding years

Ms. Spanos also highlighted the lack of knowledge about how much CTE leads to neurological dysfunction, partly due to a lack of research in Australia and internationally

Wife Anita Frawley and daughters Keeley, Danielle and Chelsea at the celebration in honor of Danny Frawley’s life in Melbourne in 2019 AAP Image / Stefan PostlesSource: AAP

“Like many players, Mr. Frawley began his football career in his early years and likely experienced head trauma while his brain was still developing,” she said

“Therefore, it is difficult to assess the contribution of CTE to personality, behavior, cognitive deficits or emotions over the course of a lifetime

“Since CTE can only be diagnosed post mortem, it is impossible to determine when CTE began and whether this coincided with changes in mood or behavior”

Ms. Spanos recommended that the AFL and the AFL Players Association “actively encourage” players to donate their brains to the Australian Sports Brain Bank to research the CTE after the deaths

“(It would) make a significant contribution to the study of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, thereby improving the safety of future generations of footballers and other contact athletes,” she said

Ms. Spanos commended the AFL for their support to date in researching the health and safety of players

The AFL Commission and AFL Players Association informed the investigation that in the decades following Frawley’s career, significant changes have been made to AFL guidelines to prevent and treat concussions and head injuries

Both organizations also advocated a joint initiative by the Australian Institute of Sport, the Australian Medical Association, the Australasian College of Sports and Exercise Medicine, and Sports Medicine in Australia as more research is needed to understand CTE

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Danny Frawley, Australian Football League, St Kilda Football Club, Dementia pugilistica, Anita Frawley, Research, AFL Players Association

News – AU – Call on AFL players to donate brains after Danny Frawley’s tragic death