A historic insurance payout was recently awarded to Shaun Smith, a former North Melbourne football player in the late 1980s and 1990s, after acquiring debilitating brain injuries from his time playing AFL.
This has become a common occurrence with Hawthorn veteran John Platten, who has suffered similar brain injuries tracing back to his 12 years playing professional Australian Rules football.
Speaking exclusively to Zero Hanger, the four-time premiership Hawk said precautions around head injuries have changed vastly since his playing days.
“Back in those days, they would ask if you were okay… You’d go to training throughout the week and then you were ready to play the next game,” Platten said.
“You just did it, and you got over it as quick as you could.”
Platten has experienced acute memory loss stemming from over 35 concussions he suffered during his years at Hawthorn, and has recently joined a class action against the AFL surrounding the topic.
“I get frustrated a lot, I forget things, I forget where I’ve put my keys, or I forget what friends are coming around and the names of their kids I only met a week ago,” said Platten on the subject of his own struggles.
The recognition of the topic gives Platten hope for the possibility of finding a cure, as well as money being directly donated by the AFL into research of the brain for the safety of current and future players of the game.
“I want to go through all these tests now when I am 57, I don’t want to be going through these tests when I’m 77,” Platten said.
“I want to find out now so I can start rehab or those sorts of things so I can have a really good life 10-15-20 years down the track as well.
“Hopefully there is money going to come out of [the class action] for research of the brain because they really can’t do too much until you’re dead.
“We’ve learnt through Polly Farmer, we’ve learnt through Danny Frawley that the only way they can test if theres any problems is if the person has passed away.”
When reminiscing on his time at Hawthorn, however, Platten has nothing but the glorious memories attached.
“I was never going to be a policeman, or a fireman or an accountant, I always just wanted to play footy,” he said.
“My first year at Hawthorn was in 1986. That year we won both the day and night premierships so that was a great way to start your AFL career.
“You don’t play for accolades, at the end of your career if you’ve done well enough and you’ve done the right thing by the club these achievements just come up.”
Platten now owns his own business called ‘The Safety Hub’, which ensures the safe return of men and women in the workforce, something his own family may not have had the same assurance of upon his return from the football field.
“Looking back now, I’m very proud of what I’ve done, and I think my family would also appreciate what I’ve done. It’s certainly a great honour to be a part of that enormous Hawthorn side.”