AUSTRALIAN rules football is one of the world's most violent sports. Thirty-six players careen across a large field, exposed to blindside hits and errant elbows, bruising shoulders and airborne knees.

Their protection is a mouthpiece and sometimes a padded cap. Collisions can be cringe-inducing. Concussions are common.

So when retired players in their 30s and 40s started complaining about memory loss, struggles with paying attention and anger management, Alan Pearce tried to help. A neurophysiologist, he began to measure the former players' brainwaves to determine if their brains were functioning properly.

The players ''were saying, 'I just thought I was getting old, but I'm only 47,' '' Pearce said.

The Australian Football League took note.

In 2015, it gave Pearce 30,000 Australian dollars [about $20,000] to help cover the costs of more tests.

But after Pearce spoke on a television program about the cognitive struggles of former players, Paul McCrory, a neurologist who was once closely aligned with the league, he told him he had crossed a line.

Soon afterward, Pearce lost his lab space, hindering his research.

A decade after retired American football players struggling with neurological problems forced the  N.F.L. to confront its traumatic brain injury crisis, a narrative that will be very familiar to sports fan in the United States is playing out in the other side of the world.

Retired players from the A.F.L., which held its Grand Final recently are coming forward with horrific tales cognitive deterioration in what should still be the prime of their lives.

At the same time, the league in which they sustained so much damage is attempting to avoid culpability by playing down any link between head hits and brain trauma, even as it tries to make the games safer and by changing the rules of the sport and adding concussion protocols.

More than 100 retired A.F.L. players are accusing the league of failing to protect them from the known dangers of repeated collisions and of resisting calls to pay for their health costs.

''We have retired players now in their 50s and 60s with structural damage to their brains - exactly what has happened in the States - but we have a position of continual denial from A.F.L.'' said Peter Jess, a player agent and advocate for the players.

''The A.F.L. is throwing everything at this.''

The honor and serving of the latest global operational research on Violent Sports and Injuries, continues. The World Students Society thanks author Ken Belson.


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