Thursday, September 18

GARRY Hocking, the man who took as many as six cortisone injections to get through a game of footy, has warned Brisbane star Michael Voss to be wary of getting hooked on the painkillers.

``You think it works so well once that you do it again and again and again. The ramifications are not a day later or a month later but when you retire,'' Hocking said.

``The damage done from continually numbing an area comes to the fore then.''

Voss went from doubtful starter to matchwinner last weekend against Adelaide after having cortisone injections before the match and at half-time.

He is expected to receive another series of jabs for his troubled right knee ahead of Saturday night's preliminary final against Sydney.

Hocking would do the same to play in a premiership but considers the long-term risks so great that he says it's time the AFL stepped in and reviewed the use of painkillers.

He raised concerns on two fronts yesterday, saying he believed the painkillers were performance enhancing and that players underestimated the side effects of using them.

``I firmly believe it's a performance-enhancing drug,'' he said.

``Not in the sense that it enhances your performance to the point you are bigger, stronger or faster but it gives you the ability to perform at a level that you couldn't have if that drug was not in your system.''

Hocking said it was not up to him to comment on whether players should be outlawed from using painkillers, but said their use should be minimised given the threat they pose to a player's welfare.

He is well qualified to comment. His knees are shot after 15 years of crunching into packs.

He had painkilling injections regularly through 1999 to dull the constant ache of patella tendonitis and relied on them just to get onto the training track in his final season of 2001.

Hocking would do it all again if it meant playing in a premiership, and for that reason he fully understands what Voss is doing.

He's just not sure how long AFL footballers will be allowed to go to such measures.

``The Lions are going for three in a row and he (Voss) would leave a big chunk out of their side so you just use what is available to you and at the moment it is still available,'' he said.

``But it is something that needs to be looked at despite Vossy's situation because player welfare is the bigger issue.

``There have been times over the years when players have had broken hands and punctured lungs and received a little something to mask the pain. I've learned there is a fine line between getting the player out there and putting someone's welfare at risk.''

Hocking, who this season coached under 18 side the Western Jets, had nothing but praise for the Geelong medical staff who often overruled his urgings for more cortisone injections late in his career.

``The docs were always dead set against it, it was the last resort a lot of times and if there was a real risk of making the injury worse they wouldn't do it,'' he said.

``The medical people nowadays are terrific when it comes to judging injuries. Players just have to realise that playing at any cost is not the life and death situation they think it is and that's difficult for me to say given I always wanted to play whether I was injured or not.

``I understand now since I've been coaching and involved in player welfare that it's not the end of the world if you don't play.''