Anita Frawley, wife of the late St Kilda legend Danny Frawley, has spoken at a senate inquiry into the impact of concussion, calling for greater support for those suffering the long-term effects of concussion.
Frawley, a former player and media figure, passed away in September 2019 and was diagnosed with CTE following an autopsy on his body. It was suspected that he suffered an estimated 20 concussions across his career.
CTE is a brain condition which is linked to repeated head injuries and blows to the head, which worsens over time and can lead to dementia. It can only be diagnosed after a death.
Frawley revealed the stress she and her daughters faced as Danny's mental health deteriorated leading up to his death.
"The incredible stress of living with someone who has CTE, seeing how much my children were suffering and then the eventual suicide and loss which is too much for my heart to carry," Frawley said in her testimony.
"My heart gave way and I suffered Takotsubo, a broken heart disease that almost ended my life as well."
Frawley has three daughters, two of which have recently become engaged, and said that even in moments like this, the sadness of Danny's death still hangs over them.
"My two eldest daughters both just got engaged, during the happiest moments of their life so far, the incredible sadness that their dad is not here to celebrate with them and to walk down the aisle is always present," she said.
"Our lives will forever be touched by sadness even in our happiest times."
Frawley is pushing for a health support scheme in order to improve the rate of concussion in the AFL and prevent the trauma many have faced. Currently, 80 players on average are diagnosed with concussion across the AFL and AFLW season.
"I can't change the past but I can have a hand at changing the future... we must act to stop athletes from taking the field when they're concussed," she added.
While the AFL has a five-year concussion strategic plan in place to address the risk, experts are called for the AFL to introduce a policy around CTE.