A LAW researcher at Bond University believes the multi-million dollar legal settlement over concussion-related brain injuries to footballers in the US sends a warning signal to Australian football administrators.
Bond University Faculty of Law Assistant Professor Annette Greenhow said although similar litigation would face a number of difficulties in Australia, football administrators should take notice.
"Australian sporting bodies and commentators have argued that NFL-type litigation is unlikely to succeed here, but the media spotlight has turned on our sporting codes," Ms Greenhow said.
"Reports of players from a number of football codes complaining of cognitive issues arising from their professional playing days means that football administrators need to address these issues by bringing together all those with an interest in concussion in sport, to recognise the growing community concern and to respond proactively to concussion issues.
"The management of player health and welfare, and a commitment to concussion education and research must be high priorities."
The US National Football League (NFL) recently reached a tentative $765 million settlement over concussion-related brain injuries among retired NFL players who joined in the action.
The NFL has agreed to compensate the former footballers, pay for medical exams and underwrite research for claims involving more than 4500 former players.
Ms Greenhow said the US settlement was monumental, both in terms of size and significance.
"The settlement was wrapped in the usual ‘no admission of liability' packaging and justified on a basis of corporate social responsibility and the desire to avoid protracted and expensive litigation," Ms Greenhow said.
"Because the settlement was mediated, rather than litigated, the allegations were not proven in court, and so the question of whether it was more probable than not that the NFL's actions caused or contributed to the injuries of retired players remains undecided.
"Nonetheless, it would be prudent for Australian football administrators to look carefully at their own policies on concussion management, prevention, research and education to ensure that they too are not subject to similar litigation.
"It is clear that the proceedings against football administrators in the US was the catalyst for the NFL Concussion Settlement.
"Australian football administrators need not wait for litigation but should act quickly to take the necessary steps to protect players from the risks posed by this serious and long-lasting harm."