Former AFL player Liam Picken sues over concussions


2023-03-10 07:38:44

A former premiership player is suing the AFL, his former club and two doctors over claims they allowed him to return to the field while suffering concussion symptoms.

Ex-Western Bulldogs player Liam Picken, who played 198 games for the club, retired in 2019 after suffering multiple concussions throughout 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, the club and doctors.

He has alleged 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.

He 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 and full AFL competition. He was not referred to an expert to manage his concussion and did not have further post-injury testing done.

In March 2018, Picken was knocked out while playing a pre-season match against Hawthorn in Ballarat. He again 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 SCAT 3 test 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 from the concussions, with symptoms including headaches, poor concentration, depression, and sleep impairment.

He had studied an undergraduate and masters degree in international business and finance before finishing his football career, but his injuries have incapacitated him from pursuing a career in those fields.

“The plaintiff as a consequence of his injuries as been totally incapacitated from undertaking placements consistent with his academic, vocational and commercial training,” the court documents stated.

The Bulldogs and AFL have been contacted for a response.

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