AFL 2023: Former Western Bulldog Liam Picken launches legal action against AFL, doctors, club after concussions

Former Western Bulldogs premiership player Liam Picken has launched legal action against the AFL, his former club and club doctors over concussions he suffered through his career.

Picken played 198 games for the club but ultimately retired in 2019 due to ongoing concussion symptoms.

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Now just 36-years-old, Picken suffered multiple concussions throughout his career, and claimed he was returned to the field despite suffering concussions throughout his career.

Picken’s lawyers claimed he returned several irregular cognitive test results during his career but was not alerted to the fact.

Picken also reportedly suffers from photophobia, or an aversion to bright light.

In documents filed with the Supreme Court of Victoria on Wednesday, and shared by The Daily Mail, Picken claims the club and doctors breached its duty of care to him.

Principal lawyer at National Compensation Lawyers, Michael Tanner told The Age Picken was unaware of the extent of his head injuries.

“From Liam’s perspective, he was never made aware of his failings of any cognitive assessment he ever underwent. Further to that, he did not necessarily understand the full extent of his injuries or his symptoms,” Tanner said.

“What he did was voice his concerns about his symptoms. The medical advice given to him at the time was (he was) still fit to play.”

The AFL doubled its concussion stand down policy from six days in 2020 to 12 in 2021, but it has long come under scrutiny.

Picken also highlighted two concussions as being particularly egregious, pointing to the round three 2017 clash against Fremantle and a pre-season match against Hawthorn in Ballarat in March 2018.

In the 2017 incident, Picken was concussed when Tommy Sheridan landed on the former Bulldog’s head, which he claims left him with a “clear diagnosis of brain injury or concussion”.

However, he claimed he was not tested for concussion via a SCAT 3 test and five days after the incident, he was returned to full training after undergoing a Digital Cognitive Assessment. He said the recommendation from the test was to wait for symptoms to resolve but alleged he was not provided the results.

The 2018 incident was a nasty head clash but that the results were similar.

In 2018, Picken’s wife Annie Nolan also outlined to The Herald Sun the impact of her husband’s concussions.

“The worst thing for me is that when he actually had the knock, I wasn’t there, but all three of our kids were in the cheer squad, so I’ve heard the story through the cheer squad,” she said.

“Mally knew straight away, and apparently he was saying, “Get up Dad, get up Dad,” but the cheer squad members all circled the girls to protect them from seeing it.”

“The girls didn’t see it was Liam, but then as Liam got carried off Delphi asked, ‘Where are they taking that dead man?’

“It sounds so dramatic, but it made me cry when I heard that, because she didn’t realise that was her dad.”

Picken is reportedly claiming loss of earnings and ongoing medical tests from now until retirement age.

He is not the first player to launch legal action as former Collingwood AFLW vice-captain Emma Grant launched a civil lawsuit after a concussion in the 2020 pre-season led to her early retirement.

A class action was revealed last month with Margalit Injury Lawyers managing principal Michel Margalit claiming the firm had been “inundated” with claims of life-changing head injuries from former players.

“Action should have been taken many, many years ago, not only to change the protocols, to increase education but also to financially support people both once injured but also to deter them so they don’t return to play too early,” Margalit told SEN’s Whateley.

Margalit referred to class actions by former NFL players, who had seen more than $1b paid out in compensation.

“We are looking at the types of compensation that’s been garnered internationally. For the NFL class action in the US, the initial settlements there was close to (USD) $1 billion,” Ms Margalit added.

“That is a very realistic figure in terms of this class action.”

The likes of Danny Frawley, Shane Tuck and Polly Farmer have all been diagnosed with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) after death.

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