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‘My teammates are dying’: NFL-style concussion lawsuit looms over Australian sport

Former American football player Colin Scotts warns failure to protect against concussions will “kill” Australian sport.

In a week where estimated costs of the NFL’s compensation payout following a class action from 5,000 former players have blown out to nearly double the original sum, there are now concerns a similar lawsuit could be on its way to Australia.

Scotts says Australian sports administrations are exposing themselves to legal action from players if they don’t act quickly to protect current and future players from debilitating brain injuries.

“You would not believe how many teammates I have that are either dead or running around with major mental illness,” Scotts told Macquarie Sports Radio’s Cam Reddin.

Almost every weekend, Scotts receives messages from worried parents in a panic because their child has taken a blow to the head while playing junior sport.

Meanwhile, some of his closest football friends have fallen ill and passed away from concussion-related illnesses like Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE).

“[Heads of sport] are not sitting here like me getting all these phone calls from America saying all my mates are dying and going insane. It’s not going away, it’s getting worse,” Scotts said.

“You can chop my legs off, I can still smile and have a beer. But losing your mind is frightening. Life is already short as it is,” he said.

In a warning to the major Australian football codes, Scotts says it may take a lawsuit the scale of what we have seen in the NFL to make concussion treatment and prevention a priority.

“Someone has to stand up. What do we need, some massive lawsuit like the NFL before we wake up? Well, that’s what’s coming,” Scotts said.

“We’re going to look back in 20 years and say it was absolute abuse. The brain was not designed to rattle. There’s no shock absorbers, there’s no airbags. It’s the most important organ in the human body and it was not designed to be hit,” he said.

An NFL-style legal case may not be far away. Already, more than 70 former AFL players are undergoing testing, while they consider a class action of their own.

“It’s terrifying. We need to wake up and do something about it, because it will kill sport. The lawsuits, the data’s there now. There are no excuses,” Scotts said.

Under the terms of settlement reached in 2015, the NFL was ordered to pay out compensation to help manage claims by those who were affected by concussion-related illnesses long into the future.

The estimated total payout figure over 20 years was around $1 billion. But on latest count, not even three years after the settlement, already more than $500 million has been paid out.

More than a decade ahead of time, the pool of money set aside for compensation is already half up.

“Somebody needs to stand up and get on the front foot because a tidal wave is coming,” Scotts said.

Click below to listen to the full interview