#*IT Happens has previously explored the risks of playing football, affecting players from many codes – from grassroots level to professional sports with the reported long-term effects of concussion. Well last month there was another high profile reminder of the risks of playing football. Newcastle Knights player, Alex McKinnon, was diagnosed with quadriplegia following an on-field tackle during a first grade match against the Melbourne Storm. According to SBS News, the 22-year-old had two vertebrae broken while in a tackle between the Storms’ player Jordan McLean, and Bromwich brothers Jesse and Kenny.

A judiciary panel found McLean guilty of a lifting tackle, and has suspended him for seven matches due to his “substantial responsibility” for the severity of McKinnon’s injuries. While arguments abate over whether the judiciary’s sentence of McLean was adequate, Fox Sports reported that the Storm’s Chief Executive Mark Evans has said that the tackle was “really no different” to tackles that regularly occur in the NRL.

While media reports of football injuries tend to proclaim the headline grabbing “freak accidents” and dangerous tackles by players, I speak from my personal experience in saying that the long term effects of football through junior and senior amateur levels have taken their toll on me.

Being in my mid-40’s, without a daily supplement of fish oil and glucosamine, I am restricted to a hobble from joints now being affected by arthritis.   While my sport was Australian Rules Football, I am sure there are many others who played other codes or indeed non-contact sports who now suffer the same fate.

Sport brings so much joy to us to as a nation, or a community both on and off the field.  It brings people together for a common cause and keeps people active in an ever more sedentary world. But at what cost?

I for one think it is worth the risks, as long as the rules of the game keep evolving to protect the health and safety of all participants based upon the latest evidence and research.