Players and coaches need to be saved from themselves

The cynics thought the clause would be used to allow players clearance for State of Origin and Finals matches if they sustained a head injury the week before. After a round of the season, players ran out again within a week after suffering a concussion.

This time coaches and club doctors have no choice.

Country of origin next week? Bad luck.

Must-win game to reach the final? A pity.

You can’t miss a grand finale for that? Well yes you can.

A few years ago, the NRL club doctor who had to deal with the concussion crisis more than most, Roosters Medico Dr. Tom Longworth, a study that found one in five players in an anonymous poll had admitted hiding concussion symptoms from team officials to keep playing. They wanted to avoid letting their coaches and teammates down.

It should have set alarm bells ringing at NRL headquarters.

In a riveting start to the 2023 season, several coaches used the opening round to target the NRL’s independent doctor and allegedly overcautious removal of their stars from the concussion testing field. Winning, as the saying goes, solves everything. It certainly keeps the trainers busy.

But it won’t solve the concussion hazard.

Next on the list should be a game-wide review of tackling techniques.

As coaches struggle to increase control over the ruck, tacklers stand more upright to catch and hold attackers, giving their defensive line more time to retreat and rest before the next game. The technique comes with the added risk of head collisions. Players who run a low risk of hitting their hips. Even if they are successful in one-on-one combat, they are encouraged to quickly leave the ball carrier. Where’s the incentive?


This week, two separate class action lawsuits were filed against the AFL by former players. The NRL knows every word spoken and written about its own concussion handling will be monitored when faced with its own lawsuit.

Meanwhile, a man who’s not even middle-aged can’t get his brain working well enough to get a paycheck or see his kids regularly because he’s been a collision sport for years.

If he knew then what he knows now, 11 days might have made a difference.

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Ryan Sederquist

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