The medical care afforded to AFLW players needs to be the same as their male counterparts, according to a prominent AFLW player manager, as the news that the Australian Sports Brain Bank had discovered neurological damage to the brain of the late Giants’ player Jacinda Barclay reverberated around the competition.
Player manager Alex Saundry told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald that the current soft cap for clubs in the AFLW had to be addressed before next season, with many concerned about the level of medical expertise they can access for women’s programs if the cap remains at $450,000 per club per season.
She said concussion was an issue that needed to be diagnosed and treated appropriately across both competitions and the AFLW soft cap made it difficult for clubs to match the medical support available to AFL players.
“The huge difference between the male and the female competition is the ability to have a decent soft cap,” Saundry said.
Some clubs have doctors working across both programs, others have different doctors they can call on when they travel interstate, while others find it difficult to attract medical staff as they are unable to offer recompense commensurate to the men’s programs.
“It’s something that needs to be looked at so the girls can get the right education and the right investment in them as athletes to ensure their safety but also for the progression of the game as well,” Saundry said.
Saundry’s comments come after Australia Sports Brain Bank researchers discovered neurological damage in the brain of Barclay, who died last year aged 29, with several sources across the industry supporting Saundry’s view for greater medical support in the AFLW, which will enter its sixth year in 2022.
Saundry praised Barclay and her family for donating her brain for research with The Guardian reporting on Friday that the post-mortem examination showed Barclay’s cerebral white matter had thickened and hardened. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) was not found, as it had been in former AFL/VFL players Shane Tuck, Danny Frawley and Graham Farmer.