Graham ‘Polly’ Farmer has become the first Australian rules footballer to be diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Farmer has been posthumously diagnosed with Stage III CTE following tests on tissue from the former ruck’s brain at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

The AFL legend, who played 101 games for Geelong and captained the club from 1965-67, died last year at the age of 84 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s.

As well as his three Sandover Medals, he was runner-up for the Brownlow Medal when playing at Geelong and was three times named in the All-Australian team.

CTE is a neurodegenerative disease believed to be caused by repeated concussions, which can only be diagnosed after death.

“Basically, what it (Farmer’s CTE) does is it tells us that the science has validated what we’ve been saying,” concussion campaigner Peter Jess told SEN on Thursday.

“This is the clinical evidence of what the outcome is from repetitive collisions in our sport. This is what we’re seeing now in the current cohort of players.”


Former AFL star John Platten told SEN the results were concerning.

“It is pretty scary but the good thing about it is they’re doing the research. I’ll still be getting checked up every year so hopefully things start getting better for us.

“It certainly brings back memories from when I first started playing footy, it’s a bit concerning and the only way they can diagnose CTE is when you’re dead. I want to know now if there’s any problems and not in the future.”

Farmer, who won a premiership medal in 1963, was also the first indigenous coach in VFL/AFL history.



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