The widow of a Richmond football star has asked the coroner to investigate how her husband was ‘badly treated’ by club doctors.
The widow of a Richmond footballer who was diagnosed with a debilitating brain disease after his suicide wants to know what role club doctors played in letting him get back on the field after repeated concussions.
Shane Tuck took his own life last year and an autopsy revealed the 38-year-old had “severe” chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which can only be diagnosed after death.
The disease is linked to repeated blows to the head and can result in behaviour changes including depression and paranoia.
His widow Katherine Tuck urged Coroner John Cain on Tuesday to probe how her husband was able to return to the field after he was concussed.
“The widow would be asking … how her husband was able to be so poorly and badly medically treated by those doctors involved at Richmond who allowed him to continue to play with numerous concussions,” lawyer Greg Griffin told the Coroners Court of Victoria on Tuesday.
Mr Griffin said they never told him to take a break after the hits.
“The words of the widow are ‘it is the voices in his head that were telling him to suicide’,” he said.
The midfielder played 173 games for the Tigers between 2004 and 2013 and was briefly a professional boxer before he was found dead at his Berwick home.
“The debilitating illness of CTE was caused by the manner in which Shane Tuck was permitted to go un-medically treated, or not properly cared for during his lengthy contract and period of employment with Richmond,” Mr Griffin said.
His client would be “very, very distressed” if the investigation did not explore what happened to players in those years and said they should examine the “sins of the past”.
But the coroner said he was far more interested in the “current state of play” of how concussion and head knocks were managed in the AFL and boxing.
“That is where I want to focus the attention in this inquest,” Mr Cain said.
The coroner said it wasn’t his job to apportion blame on anyone.
A lawyer for the Richmond Football Club backed the proposed scope of the coronial investigation.
“My client respectfully agrees with the course chosen by your honour,” he said.
A club spokeswoman would not provide further comment when contacted later in the day.
A 12-day break for players with concussion was introduced into the AFL during the 2021 season, doubling the previous mandatory period.