A RECENTLY retired AFL footballer is seeking compensation from his former club after he was diagnosed with brain damage linked to the multiple concussions he sustained during his career. Daniel Bell, who played 66 games for Melbourne before being delisted last year, has lodged a claim with the AFL Players Association after a neuropsychologist found his cognitive function had deteriorated significantly and linked this to his history of concussions. Bell, who turns 26 next month, had hoped to continue playing football this year, but has been strongly advised against it given the risk of further brain damage. He has been told that another concussion would increase his chances of developing Alzheimer's disease or dementia in later life. He has spoken to The Age about his case after last weekend's AFL opening round produced a spate of head injuries, including the disturbing concussion of Geelong's Joel Selwood and the blow that left Brisbane captain Jonathan Brown requiring reconstructive facial surgery. Since Bell's life-changing diagnosis, on October 4 last year, he has recorded promising results through an online brain-training program he believes could help other footballers. Despite his improvements, Bell - who was regularly an A-grade student in high school - still struggles to remember words and names when he is tired or his brain feels strained. This was evident during a 2Ã‚Â½-hour sitting with The Age in his Bentleigh home this week when he lost his train of thought mid-sentence several times. In subsequent exchanges, he attributed this to the long interview and general fatigue after a busy weekend. Last week, however, Bell received an encouraging assessment from his neuropsychologist after his disciplined use of the Elite Minds cognitive training program he was introduced to by his old club. AFL players typically enlist the Players Association to help them with injury claims, which then go before the AFL Grievance Tribunal. If Bell's case is approved, he stands to be awarded 50 per cent of the base wage of his last contract. It would be a sum of under $100,000, but the former player has agonised over pursuing the claim in recent months and still feels somewhat uneasy. He is also not convinced the claim will be approved. ''I still love the club and I don't want to put them out; they've just come out of debt. I feel weird about the whole thing, but I've got a small case of brain damage, I suppose,'' he said. ''There's a clause that says you have to lodge your claim within six months after your final contract, so I suppose I've thought that if I don't lodge it, what happens if I've got dementia in 20 years?'' Bell stresses he has no grievance with Melbourne and is not claiming club doctors mismanaged him. ''The only mismanagement was from my own will to play,'' he said. Melbourne has indicated it is more concerned about Bell's well-being than any payout. The club has emphasised to The Age that Bell's delisting was based entirely on form rather than his medical history. Bell estimates that he was concussed 15 times before he was drafted by Melbourne in 2002, and that only half of those bouts were through playing football. He wore a helmet as a teenage footballer but discarded it by the time he was 14. Bell estimates he was diagnosed with concussion between eight and 10 times during his time at Melbourne but the two concussions he experienced in 2009 and 2010 were the most damaging. In both instances Bell was injured while playing in the VFL. He suffered immediate memory loss, and was unable to see his hands due to blurred vision. Feeling embarrassed and anxious, Bell remained silent about his deteriorating day-to-day condition. Initially, he only shared his concerns about his troubling loss of memory, poor concentration and general awareness levels with his girlfriend, Jayde Purtell. After he was delisted in September, Bell outlined his experiences in his exit medical interview with Melbourne's doctor, Andrew Daff. He referred Bell to a neuropsychologist who, after hours of testing, diagnosed brain damage and made the link to the concussions. While there are several precedents of AFL players gaining compensation for career-ending injuries, Bell's claim comes at a time when the AFL's management of concussion is being scrutinised like never before. Disturbing developments in American football - namely the case of ex-star Dave Duerson who committed suicide and requested his brain be studied because he suspected it was damaged by blows received playing - have influenced the AFL in outlining more conservative concussion guidelines on the eve of this season. Bell believes they don't go far enough. ''I think there needs to be some sort of mandatory rehab program after players suffer concussion because I could pass the tests, but I don't think I was always right,'' he said.