The NRL’s tightened concussion rules will take the pressure off club doctors in high-pressure on-field situations, head of football Todd Greenberg says.
The NRL moved on Wednesday to strengthen its approach to concussion ahead of round six, under new chief medico Paul Bloomfield.
That edict came after the game’s governing body issued Parramatta with a $20,000 fine (of which $10,000) was suspended over the club’s handling of three concussion incidents, including one involving hooker Nathan Peats, in the round-three loss to the Warriors.
The NRL cleared South Sydney over an incident involving Adam Reynolds in round two against the Sydney Roosters.
Manly coach Geoff Toovey claimed club doctors were caught between a rock and a hard place in attempting to observe the NRL’s concussion laws after Daly Cherry-Evans was hauled off late in the loss to St George Illawarra, even though he claimed he wasn’t concussed.
Greenberg said the new guidelines made the issue more black and white for doctors.
“What we have done is revised the procedures around players being removed from the field of play and also players staying off the field of play,” he said.
“Ultimately, it is about player safety but we are trying to make the job of the club doctor easier, more transparent and certainly more consistent.
“It’s a very prescriptive outlook for doctors and, hopefully, it makes their job easier.
“What we are trying to do in working with the club doctors is to give them the tools and policy to make sure they make clinical decision and put their players first.
“We are looking for consistency across every round and we think the new policy will do that and it should reduce pressure on doctors.
“When they see symptoms, they are left with little discretion but to remove the player.
“It is important we get behind the doctors. They have an important job to do in a high-pressure situation.
“The policy will help them.”
Under the new rules, players must not return to the field if they have displayed symptoms such as loss of consciousness, falling to the ground without taking protective action, seizure, memory impairment or balance disturbance (ataxia).
Under a second rule amendment, players must leave the field, and can return if they are not concussed, following assessment, if they suffer from an incident such as a facial fracture that could have caused concussion.
Under the new rule, Sam Burgess would have had to leave the field to be assessed in last year’s grand final.
Greenberg said the NRL was determined to usher in a new era of education and responsibility about concussion.
“Rugby league is a very tough game and that is one of the great things about it but sometimes we have to protect players from themselves.
“Players need to understand this is about their safety.”