David Swallow falls to the ground after being concussed in a tackle.
David Swallow falls to the ground after being concussed in a tackle.

What AFL’s new concussion rule means for players

Concussed AFL players will be sidelined for at least one match under a major overhaul of the game's policing of head knocks.

In an admission more needs to be done to tackle the scourge of concussion, the league will significantly strengthen its return-to-play protocols for the 2021 season.

Under current guidelines, concussed players are able to play seven days after a knock if they pass medical assessments.

The lay off period will now be extended beyond 10 days.

It means a player knocked out in a preliminary final would miss the Grand Final.

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David Swallow falls to the ground after being concussed in a tackle.
David Swallow falls to the ground after being concussed in a tackle.

An AFL spokesman said its updated concussion guidelines would be finalised in the coming weeks.

It follows revelations Richmond footballer Shane Tuck, who died last year, had become the third AFL player found to have been suffering from a crippling neurological disease linked to repeated head knocks and subconcussive hits at the time of his death.

Geelong legend "Graham" Polly Farmer and St Kilda great Danny Frawley were also diagnosed post-death with CTE - chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

WorkSafe Victoria said on Monday its own independent inquiry into the AFL's concussion protocols "was continuing".

Concussion campaigner and veteran player agent Peter Jess said it was now clear the AFL's return-to-play concussion guidelines had been "manifestly inadequate".

CTE was an "industrial disease", Jess said, that had exposed the game to serious litigation.

"The only comparison we have is the James Hardie asbestos case where they had to set up a compensation fund and pay out in excess of $2.6 billion over a 30-year period," Jess said.


He is pushing for the establishment of a similar AFL concussion damages and research fund for past and present players.

"If we are going to stop the intergenerational industrial disease, the AFL must make hard decisions and not resile from the fact that players should not return until multimodality tests confirm the brain has returned to a healthy state," Jess said.

"The medical and scientific data is telling us that is 30 days."

Prof Alan Pearce, the Victorian-based affiliate of the Australian Sports Brain Bank in Sydney, says a 30-day hiatus would allow the human brain to "recover properly, so it reduces inflammation and the brain's immune cells can repair the micro-damage".

A proposed Federal Court damages action involving more than 100 former VFL/AFL players has stalled because of a "disturbing" lack of medical records kept by clubs.

Originally published as What AFL's new concussion rule means for players



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