Good Governance | Integrity | Athlete Development & Wellbeing | Health & Safety

AAA launches Concussion Working Group

The Australian Athletes’ Alliance (AAA) has brought together representatives from the major sporting Associations to take a collaborative approach to concussion prevention and management.

Identifying the need for further independence and transparency in the management and research of concussion, the AAA Concussion Working Group sees brain injury experts and concussion advocates from Aussie Rules, cricket, horse racing, netball, basketball and the rugby codes working together to better understand the assessment and treatment sport-related brain injuries.

The working group is led by brain injury experts Associate Professor Alan Pearce, Associate Professor Regina Crameri, Associate Professor Terry Coyne and Professor Robert Williamson and will:

- Seek to ensure there is appropriate independence and transparency in the research and management of concussion;

- Facilitate the exchange of information and development of policy;

- Provide a forum for experts to inform AAA members regarding the latest developments on concussion; and

- Ensure Australian athletes receive best practice education, preventative measures, assessment protocols, treatment regimes and support in relation to concussion, informed by the best research available and based on taking a conservative approach to protect athlete health and safety.

The group aims to take a collaborative approach to addressing concussion in sport while educating and providing relevant support to athletes who have suffered brain injuries.

Chair of the AAA Concussion Working Group, CEO of the Rugby League Players’ Association and former AFL player, Ian Prendergast, said that while research on concussion continues to evolve, further steps must continue to be taken to mitigate the risks of concussion and properly support athletes impacted by the brain injury.

“There has been significant advances made in recent years. However, we must remain vigilant in exploring ways to further protect the health and safety of players, including improving assessment protocols and the support offered to athletes affected by the injury,” he said.

“Based on my experience working in sport, there are further efforts needed in terms of education and empowerment to continue shifting the culture regarding concussion to ensure athletes and support staff respect the measures in place to mitigate the impact of concussion.”

Working Group member Associate Professor Alan Pearce says that it’s important that we are taking a multiple modality approach to research by understanding the biomechanics of concussion, the physiological processes that occur after the impact and biomarkers to determine the extent of injury and recovery.

“We need to get a to position where all sports are utilising standardised protocols of brain injury assessment so that any medical practitioner throughout Australia is unlikely to deviate from the required tests which can then be useful for research purposes,” he said.

“Currently, we do not have enough financial support to undertake the required research here in Australia and similarly, we can’t rely on research conducted overseas as substitutes for Australian sports. The AAA’s stance on supporting independent research should be applauded and I look forward to facilitating research and providing advice in an independent capacity to the AAA.”

AAA General Secretary Jacob Holmes said that while concussion was once brushed off as nothing to worry about, many athletes are now enquiring about the short and long-term consequences of multiple concussions on the human brain.

“The safety of all athletes is paramount, and with increasing athlete interest in the long-term repercussions of concussion, it’s important we’re in a position to provide well-founded and trustworthy information to all stakeholders,” he said.

“The athletes, as custodians of their sports, want to ensure the work that is done now will provide positive outcomes for the next generation of athletes. In the area of concussion we see five components as fundamental to this: education, assessment, prevention, support and research.”

The AAA bolstered its approach to concussion research earlier this year by partnering with the Queensland Brain Institute on the #NoBrainNoGame campaign.’

Known as the peak body for Australia’s elite professional athletes, the AAA represents more than 3,500 athletes through Australia’s eight major player associations:

- Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA)

- Australian Football League Players’ Association (AFLPA)

- Australian Jockeys’ Association (AJA)

- Australian Netball Players’ Association (ANPA)

- Australian Basketballers’ Association (ABA)

- Professional Footballers Australia (PFA)

- Rugby League Players Association (RLPA)

- Rugby Union Players’ Association (RUPA)

Members of AAA Concussion Working Group:

- Associate Professor Alan Pearce 

- Associate Professor Regina Crameri 

- Professor Robert Williamson 

- Associate Professor Terry Coyne 

- Paul Innes – Australian Jockeys’ Association CEO

- Ian Prendergast – Rugby League Players’ Association CEO

- Ross Xenos – Rugby Union Players’ Association CEO

- Brett Murphy – AFLPA GM of Player Relations

- Laura Sigal – AAA Deputy General Secretary and AFLPA Legal Officer

- Jacob Holmes – AAA General Secretary and CEO of ABA

- Jodie Fields – ACA Manager Female Operations and Membership

Alan Pearce
Alan Pearce PhD, is an adjunct Associate Professor in the Faculty of Health, Arts and Design at Swinburne University of Technology, and an adjunct Senior Research Fellow in the Melbourne School of Health Sciences, The University of Melbourne.

Alan's primary research focus is on sports concussion with his work recognised internationally. With 20 years experience in transcranial stimulation and electrophysiology techniques, Alan also investigates neuroplastic changes following peripheral injury, balance disorders, exercise interventions and rehabilitation. 

Regina Crameri
Regina Crameri graduated from the University of Technology, Sydney in Biomedical Science. She has a PhD in Exercise Science from the University of Sydney and has held teaching positions at the University of Sydney and Concordia University, Montreal, Canada. She spent five (5) years as a post-doctoral scientist at the prestigious Copenhagen Muscle Research Centre, Denmark where she investigated the activation of stem cells in skeletal muscle. She has spent the last ten (10) years as a defence scientist at the Defence Science and Technology Organisation where she has investigated the health, human performance and injury management of deployed soldiers; the potential of biomarkers as an indicator of exposure to biological agents and has investigate the emerging and disruptive technologies for Defence. She currently holds the position of Associate Director of the Defence Science Institute.

Bob Williamson
Professor Bob Williamson is a former Director of the Murdoch Childrens and is currently an Honorary Senior Principal Fellow (Professor). He has been honoured countless times for his work, primarily in the field of genetics and is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science and of the Royal Society, and an Officer of the Order of Australia. In 1995 the Board of the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute (then the Murdoch Institute) appointed Professor Williamson as Director, with a parallel appointment as Professor of Medical Genetics at the University of Melbourne. More recently he has taken a major interest in national science policy and medical and scientific ethics, and had the privilege of advising several Premiers, Health Ministers and Ministers for Innovation. Professor Williamson Chaired the OECD Committee on Pharmacogenetics and Regulation of Genetic Testing, and worked extensively for the World Health Organization both before and after coming to Australia. He has over 400 refereed career publications, of which about 45 are in Nature, Nature Genetics, Lancet and New England Journal. He has been a member of many editorial boards, including that of the Journal for Medical Ethics for the past twelve years, and edited several books on genetic engineering and on ethics and the new genetics.

Terry Coyne
Founding member of BrizBrain & Spine, Dr Terry Coyne is a neurosurgeon with specialist skills in brain and spinal surgery. 

Dr Coyne is a Board Member of the World Society of Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery and a Board Member on the Asian -Australasian Society of Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery. He sits also on the advisory board for the Asia-Pacific Centre for Neuromodulation, University of Queensland (APCN).

Dr Coyne is an Associate Professor Faculty Medicine at the University of Queensland, Griffith University and Bond University.