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Aussie player unions form concussion group

AAP logoAAP 30/08/2016 Rob Forsaith

Australian sports stars are still feeling pressured to return to play prematurely after concussions, according to the chair of a new working group on the issue.

The Australian Athletes' Alliance (AAA), which represents more than 3,500 members through the players' unions of eight sports including AFL and NRL, has formed a concussion group.

The body hopes a collaborative approach will help ensure there is greater independence and transparency when it comes to concussion management and research.

Chair Ian Prendergast noted significant steps had been taken in recent years, with players and clubs helping change concussion culture.

But Prendergast, a former AFL player who now heads the Rugby League Players' Association, added there was still too much pressure on stars to return before they are ready.

"Either implied or directly," Prendergast said on Tuesday.

"(Directly) is completely unacceptable in this day and age.

"We also need to protect players from themselves ... they want to play, especially when the stakes increase around finals and significant competition.

"These measures really need to take that out of the players' hands."

Concussion assessment during games also remains a concern.

"We all see incidents where we raise our eyebrows," Prendergast said.

"We're working closely with the NRL in my sport now, to stay across that and to ensure there is accountability around the way that the injury is being managed."

AAA meetings generally deal with labour issues but concussion is an injury that impacts jockeys and those playing AFL, NRL, rugby union, soccer, cricket, basketball and netball.

Alarming US research on the long-term risks of multiple concussions has changed the approach of many codes over the past 15 years.

Geelong-born soccer goalkeeper Joey Didulica, who represented Croatia and retired in 2011 after more than 20 concussions, detailed his personal experience on Tuesday.

"I've searched the globe to get rid of the headaches ... to get rid of the tension around my eyes," Melbourne City assistant coach Didulica said.

Didulica revealed the pressure placed on him by Louis van Gaal during a club stint in the Netherlands.

Neurophysiologist Alan Pearce, who is part of the AAA working group, suggested there was a clear need for local research on Australian sports.

Funding is an obvious challenge.

"All of the major sports have responsibility - a duty of care in terms of funding research," Prendergast said.

"We think that now that we're taking this coordinated approach we're more likely to be able to access funding.

"We can help in terms of facilitating the athletes' participation."

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