“I guess [the new rule] is good but it is not enough in my eyes.”
Concussion advocate Peter Jess supports Frost’s contention and says clubs can do better in identifying the effects of sub-concussive knocks by using a rapid point of care diagnostic biomarker that would diagnose players via blood tests.
“All the focus is on clinical concussions, clinical concussions you see, you treat and you rehabilitate – the most dangerous part of our game are subclinical concussions, they are untreated, they are undiagnosed and they are unrehabilitated,” Jess said.
However officials at clubs remain interested in the finer details of the new protocols.
Broad was concussed late in the third quarter of the preliminary final after his head crashed into teammate Jayden Short’s back and he was ruled out of the match at three-quarter-time, which would have sidelined him for the grand final under new rules.
Richmond officials understand the logic of that AFL move – to be made official in coming weeks – and the important work that needs to be done to protect players from the effects of concussion, particularly in light of former Tiger Shane Tuck, who died last year aged 38, being diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) posthumously after 173 games with the Tigers.
However they also know that mandating weeks off will bring an extra element of pressure to medical staff making such decisions. Although the doctors’ word is final nowadays with everyone accepting within clubs that their first, second and third priority is player welfare, the scrutiny of such decisions will be huge when the ramification is missing a crucial game, or even grand final.
The reality is no player has missed a grand final through concussion since concussion protocols were introduced.
It is assumed that Port Adelaide’s Brad Ebert, then-Giant Dylan Shiel and current GWS player Callan Ward would have missed the following week after being knocked out in preliminary finals, but their team lost so that assumption was never tested.
One former player made the point that one potential side effect of the rule change could be that players who would otherwise have been kept off the ground as a precaution because the game was in hand, even if they passed the concussion protocol, would surely be wanting to return to the fray so they didn’t miss the following week.
That’s a risk, as is a diagnostic process so heavily reliant on the reporting of symptoms from players, particularly when the short-term cost of failing a concussion test is high.
The AFL Players Association will consider the proposal when they see it and the club doctors are yet to examine the proposal in detail, however AFL doctors president Gold Coast’s Dr Barry Rigby told The Age he understood the need for a shift.
“We are all very aware that we may need to, at least until we get some further information and a bit more knowledge, we’re probably going to lean towards a significantly more conservative approach,” Rigby said.
Peter Ryan is a sports reporter with The Age covering AFL, horse racing and other sports.