“Cricket have introduced a concussion substitute recently which has been very effective. Soccer, rugby and AFL should follow quickly,” Picken posted on twitter after Geelong great Graham “Polly” Farmer’s autopsy revealed chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
“This year would be a great time to introduce a concussion substitute in the AFL. This would take pressure off players, clubs and medical staff, and it would also reduce the disadvantage to clubs if they lost a player through concussion.”
Picken said the idea of losing a player to concussion was far more serious, and had a greater duty of care to the player, than losing a player for other injuries such as a hamstring.
“A brain injury can evolve over minutes, hours, days and weeks. ‘Delayed concussion’ Why not just lower the risk to the athlete and remove them. A brain is also a lot more important than a hamstring,” he tweeted.
The idea of concussion substitutes has also been argued to alleviate the pressure on players, coaches and medical staff to encourage a player to return to the field after a heavy hit.
The sub rule was introduced before the 2011 season to make sure teams who had a player who suffered a game-ending injury would not be disadvantaged.
It was also to try to limit the rapidly escalating use of the interchange bench which had increased the speed of the game, a feature the AFL said contributed to collision injuries.
“There’s a risk of more severe collision-type injuries if we don’t act to stop the interchange taking player speed to a new level,” then AFL football operations manager Adrian Anderson said late in 2010.
Picken was forced to retire last year having not played an AFL game since 2017 after suffering another head injury in a pre-season match in 2018.
Picken was a part of the Bulldogs 2016 premiership team, booting three goals in the win over Sydney.