A FORMER Colac footballer who quit the game because of persistent head injuries says country football leagues are handling concussion as best they can.
Steve O’Dowd gave away his Colac Tigers career at age 25 after two bouts of concussion during the mid 1990s forced him to consider his long-term wellbeing.
O’Dowd, of Coragulac, said Colac district football officials would have difficulty introducing a mandatory one-week rest rule for players concussed during matches.
He also said making helmets compulsory for juniors was something the AFL and Victorian Country Football League needed to discuss before any decision at a grassroots level.
O’Dowd’s comments come as the AFL’s concussion policy, and the decision of former Melbourne player Daniel Bell to seek compensation for brain damage sustained during his career, dominate metropolitan media.
“I think it’s a lot tougher here,” he said.
“In country football you’re not surrounded by doctors at the club, you’re relying on, in most cases, volunteers who provide trainer support.”
O’Dowd said he was “not sure” about compulsory helmets.
“The leagues around here would need to take a lead off the AFL and the VCFL,” he said.
“I think that’s really a governing body decision. They need guidance from them on that.
“I think helmets are a great thing if they give small kids the confidence to get in and play the game, that can’t be a bad thing.
“But I’m not sure going down the path of mandatory helmets is the right thing.
“You don’t see very many concussions in junior football.”
O’Dowd said the professionalism of modern-day AFL clubs meant Bell had the right to seek compensation from the Melbourne Football Club for his brain injuries.
“In this day and age he does because football clubs are clearly the employer of these professional footballers,” he said.
“Football has moved to the position that it’s like any other workplace.
“I can understand why he’s going down that path.”
Head injuries ended football career
STEVE O’Dowd was in the prime of his football career when he suffered the two bouts of concussion which ended his career.
The first came after a “king hit” playing for Colac in 1994 in a semi-final against Port Fairy at South Warrnambool.
The second was the result of a seemingly harmless shirt-front half a season later, against Camperdown at Camperdown.
O’Dowd had experienced concussion during his junior football days but had never been shaken up in the manner the two major knocks shook him.
“I was 25 when I finished playing. I guess I had a series of concussions along the way,” he said.
“I don’t know much about them but I think you can have a cumalative effect and that seemed to be my problem.
“They were getting worse and worse and the effects of concussion stayed with me for weeks and months.
“That’s when I found it difficult in the workplace and getting out playing. For me it was medical advice and me realising it was getting worse.
“I was working at the newspaper and after the last couple of ones I had trouble reading and retaining stuff as well as peripheral vision.
“It affected my work and even things like driving.”
O’Dowd has no problems these days and works at Colac accountancy firm WHK.
Past president stands firm on helmets
FORMER Irrewarra-Beeac president Paul McCallum makes no apologies for his club’s stance on helmets in junior football.
Amid media coverage of concussion in football, Mr McCallum said making the Bombers’ under-14.5 players wear helmets was the right decision for the club.
The club made the decision to encourage juniors into football, but the stance has had far more impact with regards to injuries.
“We’ve had enough incidents over the years where there has been positive, undeniable benefit that the kids have had wearing helmets by way of protection after knocks on the head,” Mr McCallum said.
“We had one guy, for example, and this was in the early days, who got a knock on the head and had a lump at the edge of the helmet,” he said.
“Had he not been wearing a helmet he would’ve been in serious trouble.”
Mr McCallum said former Melbourne footballer Daniel Bell appeared justified attempting to win compensation for brain damage suffered during his AFL career.