Objectives: To determine the frequency and nature of fatal brain injuries occurring in Australian football.
Setting: State of Victoria, January to July 1999.
Design: Retrospective case series of football-related deaths identified from the coronial autopsy records of the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine (1990-1999) and newspaper reports (1968-1989).
Main outcome measures: Coronial autopsy findings and circumstances of injury.
Results: 25 deaths associated with Australian football were identified, nine due to brain injury. Coronial findings in the brain-injury deaths were intracranial haemorrhage in eight patients and infarct in the territory of the middle cerebral artery in one. In three of four cases of subarachnoid haemorrhage, vertebral artery trauma was noted. In all but one case, injury occurred as an accidental part of play.
Conclusions: The most common findings in deaths due to brain injury in Australian football were intracranial haemorrhage, including subarachnoid haemorrhage from vertebral artery injury.