West Coast midfielder Luke Shuey says the serious spinal injury suffered by a 21-year-old footballer has been another alarming wake-up call to AFL players.
East Perth footballer Beau Chatley underwent emergency surgery after suffering serious damage to his neck and spine during a WAFL reserves match on Saturday.
There are fears Chatley has suffered permanent spinal injuries after landing on the back of his head following a strong tackle.
Chatley was unable to brace himself for impact because the bottom of his jumper got stuck over his head as he was being slung in the tackle.
Mitchell Antonio, the West Perth player who laid the tackle, has been referred to the WAFL Tribunal after being charged with careless conduct.
Shuey says the game’s clampdown on head-high tackles and shirtfronts has made Australian Rules Football safer than ever before.
But he said the chance of suffering neck and spinal injuries still remained a big concern.
“It’s quite alarming, especially as a player,” Shuey said.
“You don’t think about it on game day. But when this stuff happens, it certainly is a wake-up call.
“I don’t know what more the AFL or the football community can do to stop it.
“We keep bringing in new rules to stop head-high bumping and harsher penalties for head-high bumping. I think the game’s doing a lot to protect players.
“But unfortunately, unlucky things like the incident on the weekend, we’re seeing maybe one or two a year at the moment. So it’s sad.”
Chatley is now breathing unassisted after being taken off the respirator on Sunday night.
He ate some food on Monday morning for the first time since suffering the injury, and there has also been some slight movement in his right hand.
Footscray’s Neil Sachse became a quadriplegic after an accidental clash during a game in 1975.
Shuey said his thoughts are with Chatley and his family.
“It’s extremely sad. But it gives you a great perspective on things,” Shuey said.