The wife of four-time AFL premiership winner John Platten has revealed the heartbreaking impacts of 36 concussions from his years of playing footy at the top level.
Platten had a glittering AFL career with Hawthorn from 1986 to 1997, winning the Brownlow Medal in 1987 and becoming a four-time premiership player with the Hawks.
During that time he regularly played on with concussion and is now suffering mentally as a result, fearing he has the brain disease with CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).
At present, CTE can only be diagnosed after death but the 60-year-old has all the symptoms of the degenerative disease, leading him and his wife Leanne to call on the AFL to give them answers.
Darren Pritchard, Jason Dunstall and John Platten celebrate winning the 1989 grand final, but Platten cannot remember the game after being concussed
Leanne Platten opened up on how John had changed over the years as the result of suffering more than 30 concussions during his playing career
In a teary interview with Channel 7, Leanne revealed the changes in her husband are so marked she has started referring to him as ‘old John’ and ‘new John’.
‘He has changed a lot. His memory, he forgets things all the time,’ she said.
‘His temper, he has a very short temper. Never had that before, he was very easygoing. Just real little things will trigger him off… sorry, I’m very upset. Why am I doing this?’
John said he was currently able to manage these episodes, but feels for his wife, who has to deal with the sudden mood changes.
‘I go through them and I say to myself, “John, relax”. I take a deep breath and get myself back to normal,’ he said.
‘It doesn’t come out when I’m with people, friends and family. Probably Leanne gets the brunt of it because she’s with me 24/7.’
Leanne said: ‘My doctor told me I’m living with two Johns now, the old John and the new John. You have to support him through his anger and his memory loss.’
Platten won four premierships with the Hawks but also collected 36 concussions
Platten, pictured handing Damon Greaves his jumper during the 2019 Hawthorn season launch, is experiencing memory loss and mood swings
Platten played the game hard and was selected to run out for Australia against Ireland when International Rules was still played (pictured)
John said his worst concussion came early in the 1989 grand final, leaving him unable to remember anything else that happened that day as Hawthorn defeated Geelong by just six points in one of the greatest deciders ever played.
‘To go back and watch that the next day and see me run out and play… it was pretty tough because it was a pretty special time for the other blokes,’ he said.
‘And for me, I cannot remember it. I can’t remember going up to get my medal. I only played the [first] quarter and then I had to watch the game from the bench for the next three quarters, but I don’t remember.
‘We talk about it now and we laugh about it but deep down it does hurt.’
Leanne added: ‘It is hard, it’s hard he doesn’t remember things and even now it’s just something we need to live with at the moment, I think.
‘It’s not easy. It’s reality, really. We feel like we are in this.’
The Senate Inquiry Into Concussions and Repeated Head Trauma in Contact Sports released 13 recommendations last week.
One of those is calling on the federal government to consider developing a national strategy to reduce concussions in contact sports.
Platten will be one of more than 100 footballers taking on the AFL in a class action lawsuit
Platten was inducted into the Australian Football Hall of Fame in 2003 and the South Australian Hall of Fame in 2002
While the inquiry was being conducted, Melbourne firm Margalit Injury Lawyers has been assembling a landmark class action lawsuit by former footballers – including Platten – and plans to take on the AFL in the Supreme Court.
The lawsuit is aimed at receiving up to $2million each for more than 100 former players.
‘Footballers need to have their health needs cared for when those health needs arise through employment,’ Leanne said.
‘But as it stands, footballers are excluded from WorkCover nationally.’
The AFL also provided a lengthy statement to Channel Seven on what the competition is doing to protect players from CTE and other degenerative brain conditions.
‘The health and safety of players at all levels of the game is the AFL’s key priority and the AFL takes concussion and the protection of the brain health of all those playing our game extremely seriously,’ the statement read in part.
‘The AFL has made more than 30 changes to tribunal guidelines and on-field rules over the past two decades to further protect the head and annually updates the concussion guidelines to improve the response to head knocks in our game in accordance with current and evolving science.’