AFL
Jonno Nash and Charlie Happell 18d

'Catastrophic outcome': Agents lobby league over AFLW safety

AFL

A concerned band of player managers has lobbied the AFL to urgently modify the rules for the women's league so players are better protected from the game's rigorous crash-and-bash style.

Concussion crusader and player agent Peter Jess has written to the AFL appealing for the league to modify the rules for women, given their apparent susceptibility to injury.

Jess believes if action isn't taken, the AFLW could have its first on-field "catastrophic outcome" - a player being paralysed.

"Parachuting elite athletes to make them run at speeds they've never run before and be stronger than they've ever been before is a recipe for disaster if we don't modify the rules. It's a huge danger," Jess told ESPN.

"Add that to the fact that women sometimes don't understand how to tackle and don't know how to protect themselves, and it's a disaster waiting to happen.

"There's been a high volume of injuries as a result, like punctured lungs and major outcomes trending more significantly than men.

"If this [modifying the rules] isn't done, we will have catastrophic outcomes. I believe in the next two years, when the women are faster, stronger, tougher, we will experience the first catastrophic outcome where someone is disabled.

"I'm not against the game. I think it's terrific women are given the opportunity to play. I just want to make it safer."

Jess's comments echo a similar warning from Jeff Kennett, the recently appointed Hawthorn president, in September.

In his newspaper column, Kennett wrote: "During this year's competition, women charged in and threw themselves at the ball - but often the result was injury.

"We all want women's football to succeed but we must identify the challenges now and address them to produce the best product with as few injuries as possible.

"Future AFLW licences should be awarded only to those clubs that can prove they are able to provide dedicated and professional support in the development of their women's teams."

Jess said changes to rules would include abolishing the shoulder charge and blind-side tackles, as well as strictly enforcing the fundamental techniques of how to apply a safe and fair tackle.

"We need to develop a safe model where these players are taught the proper techniques of tackling and being able to protect themselves," Jess told ESPN.

"We're exploring this safe tackle protocol through martial arts, like jiu jitsu because they have the lowest concussion outcomes out of any martial arts.

"This will give them the skills to safely disenable an opponent while preventing injury."

He said medical data highlighted the fact that women are far more likely to be concussed than men because of their musculo-skeletal structure.

Jess, representing a group of agents, told ESPN the AFL was yet to respond to his request.

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