Without a professional contract in the A-Leagues, Luke DeVere hasn’t had the opportunity to undergo regular elite-level health screenings the past two pre-seasons. 

Having finished up with the Wellington Phoenix at the end of the 2020-21 season, DeVere has transitioned into work as a personal trainer in Brisbane, while looking after his young family. 

While preserving his health and fitness in his new job, the former Socceroo and Australian youth international is aware of keeping his general health in check after his professional football career. 

While health examinations are important for all members of the community, elite athletes are often exposed to additional health risks, such as sun exposure – A-Leagues players train and play during Australia’s summer months – and concussion risks from repetitive heading or impact injuries.  

With a history of heart concerns in his family, DeVere joined a host of former Socceroos and A-Leagues stars at the PFA’s inaugural past players program health day in Brisbane ahead of the Socceroos World Cup farewell match against New Zealand last Thursday. 

The health day provided recently retired and former players with heart health checks – provided by Heartbeat of Football – concussion screening by BioEye and skin cancer checks from SpotScreen. 

DeVere was joined by the likes of Jade North, Matt Smith, Matt McKay, Andrew Durante, Chris Grossman, Gary Cole, Michael McGlinchey, Joe Spiteri and 1974 Socceroo, Doug Utjesenovic.

“Heart health is something in my family with my grandfather and father that is topical,” DeVere told pfa.net.au.  “They’ve had issues themselves, so it’s something that I would like to stay on top of as I get older and move away from the professional realm where it is quite closely monitored.” 

In addition to receiving peace of mind over his hearth health, DeVere said the PFA’s concussion testing, provided by BioEye, demonstrated the extent of care that the PFA provides current and former players. 

“I think I was probably reasonably lucky I suppose, I didn’t have too many clear-cut concussions, but as a defender, the amount of times you’re heading the ball without really realising it, off force and velocity off goal kicks, [is concerning]. 

“It is something we see coming out more and more [in the media] about various sports and concussions and that can a little bit plays on your mind, so it’s nice to get these check ins to see what might be going on in the background. 

“It just goes to show the commitment that the PFA makes to the players in terms of providing these [services] and continuing to provide them shortly, and long after, they have given something to the game.” 

For former All White and Wellington Phoenix goalkeeper Jacob Spoonley, who is now the General Manager of the NZPFA, the concussion testing is critical for former players – particularly those exposed during their careers to observe any changes in brain health. 

“During my career I had around five concussions, two of which were pretty severe. I was hospitalised directly after the game; I wasn’t taken out of the game. One of them included a suspected brain bleed so I think the importance around the testing and the protocols is paramount. 

“Being a goalkeeper, you put yourself in harm’s way – it comes with the territory – but having this safety net around is just something that is invaluable. 

“I think a lot of players and a lot of members will know this is important, but actually going out and doing something about it and having the PFA support them and provide them with the excuse is exactly what is required.” 

For former Socceroo Jade North, monitoring his heart health, skin for melanoma and concussion results – after a career as a hardy defender – are a critical and well overdue service for past players. 

“I was a 21-year professional footballer, you exercise and train at a high level for so long and you have this type of testing and feedback at your doorstep, you have that at your feet. 

“But then all of a sudden if you don’t continue [playing], you can sometimes neglect your body and your health. So I think it’s great for the PFA to provide this service.” 

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