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Former AFL player Liam Picken sues over concussions

A former premiership player has launched legal action against the AFL, his former club and doctors over claims they allowed him to return to the field while suffering concussion symptoms that ultimately ended his career.

Ex-Western Bulldogs player Liam Picken played 198 games for the club and retired in 2019 after suffering multiple concussions during his career.

The 36-year-old has launched a civil suit in the Supreme Court of Victoria seeking compensation for lost earnings against the AFL, his old club and two doctors.

He alleges the parties breached their duty of care by allowing him to continue playing while suffering concussion symptoms, failing to take reasonable care for his safety and exposing him to unnecessary harm.

Picken was not properly tested for a concussion after his head hit the ground in a collision with a Fremantle player in April 2017, he claimed in a writ filed this week.

He alleged the knock left him with a clear diagnosis of brain injury or concussion.

Despite continuing to suffer symptoms from this, he immediately returned to training, full AFL competition and claims he was not referred to an expert for further testing or to manage his condition.

In March 2018, Picken was knocked out while playing a pre-season match against Hawthorn in Ballarat.

Again he returned to full training and playing.

Picken claimed the Bulldogs placed him in a dangerous position by allowing him to continue playing despite irregular concussion assessment results, in breach of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The club allegedly did not tell him about irregular test results, did not investigate them further, did not refer him for further scans and did not educate him on the risks around brain injuries and concussion.

Two AFL doctors named in the suit, Gary Zimmerman and Jacob Landsberger, are accused of failing to properly test Picken by doing a sport concussion assessment following the 2017 concussion.

The doctors allegedly knew he was in a position of danger but did not watch Picken for signs and symptoms of concussion or declare him unfit for returning to the field, nor did they assess him any further despite his continuing symptoms.

Further, Picken and his partner Annie Nolan made multiple complaints that his symptoms were consistent with post-concussion syndrome, which eventually led to the end of his career.

Picken continues to suffer due to the concussions, with symptoms including headaches, poor concentration, depression and sleep impairment.

He studied an undergraduate and masters degree in international business and finance before finishing his football career but said his injuries left him totally incapable of pursuing a career in those fields.

In a statement, an AFL spokeswoman said the sporting body was yet to receive any formal notification of the legal action.

"The health and safety of players at all levels of the game is the AFL's key priority and we take concussion and the protection of the brain health of all those playing our game extremely seriously," she said.

AFL players are excluded from seeking WorkCover insurance in Victoria, but there is a push to overhaul the current workers' compensation scheme.

Several other players have also launched legal action as concern grows about deadly chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Former Collingwood AFLW vice-captain Emma Grant launched action last week against her club and Margalit Injury Lawyers is preparing a multimillion-dollar class action against the AFL in the Supreme Court.

Former player agent Peter Jess believes thousands of other former footballers could be suffering in silence and more legal cases would likely emerge.

He described concussion as a "pandemic" in various sports and said governments needed to recognise more should be done to support players.

Former St Kilda great Danny Frawley, Geelong legend Graham "Polly" Farmer and Richmond midfielder Shane Tuck were found to have the neurodegenerative disease.

The Bulldogs and the AFL Players' Association have been contacted for comment.