Ex-Eagles defender sues West Coast, AFL over concussion

The AFL's concussion problems have resurfaced, with former West Coast defender Brad Sheppard launching legal action against the league, the Eagles and two former club doctors over medical negligence.

Sheppard was forced to retire in 2021 at the age of 30 due to ongoing concussion symptoms.

The 216-game veteran suffered a number of concussions at the tail end of his career, with a head knock against Fremantle in the penultimate round of 2021 proving to be the final straw.

Earlier that season, Sheppard suffered a heavy concussion in a sickening clash of heads with Carlton's Adam Saad.

Sheppard has engaged the services of injury compensation law firm Bradford Legal to launch a case in WA's Supreme Court.

The named defendants are the AFL, West Coast and doctors Gerard Taylor and Alex Strahan

Strahan departed at the end of 2023 following a 12-year stint at the club.

A writ was filed on July 5, with Sheppard claiming "damages, interest and costs arising from personal injuries suffered by the plaintiff during his employment with the Australian Football League and the West Coast Eagles Football Club from 25 November 2009 onwards."

The writ goes on to say that "such accident, injuries, loss and damage having resulted from the negligence and/or breach of contract and/or breach of statutory duty" of the named defendants.

AFL spokesperson Jay Allen said: "We are aware of the matter and will abide by the court's directions."

A West Coast spokesperson said the club won't be making any comment with the matter before the courts.

Sheppard has opened up several times about his daily struggles with concussion.

He said it took him about six months to shake off the concussion he suffered against Fremantle in what turned out to be his final AFL game.

"The first two months I couldn't even get my heart rate up over 100 without having head spins," Sheppard told the ABC last year.

"And my concentration levels just weren't there, my ability to focus on anything. I was just constantly tired."

Brad Sheppard.
Brad Sheppard is assessed for concussion by the club doctor during a 2021 game against Collingwood.

The 33-year-old is still plagued by concussion symptoms, with the ailment forcing him to quit a car dealership job in Broome last year.

Also in 2023, a class action involving dozens of former players was launched against the AFL seeking compensation for concussion injuries.

The AFL extended their return-to-play concussion protocols to 12 days in 2021, but Sheppard doesn't feel that's enough.

"I think the optimal level I'd like to see for players is 28 days, about a month off footy," Sheppard said.

"It's hard to say that to a player because you're there for performance, it's a performance industry."

Sheppard's misfortune represents the second serious concussion issue the Eagles have faced in recent times.

In 2021, lawyer and brain injury advocate Peter Jess said former West Coast midfielder Daniel Venables deserved a $10 million payout from the AFL as a concussion compensation.

Venables played in the 2018 premiership side in his debut AFL season.

But a devastating concussion suffered in round nine of 2019 ended his career after just 21 games.

Venables was forced to retire in 2021 at the age of 22 after an independent board of neurologists and neuroscientists declared it was medically unsafe for him to play again.

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