NRL to treat disclosure of concussion breaches on 'case-by-case' basis
The NRL won't disclose if it has fined any clubs for concussion breaches since last year's early season crackdown for fear of running doctors out of the game.
League Central will further strengthen game-day protocols around head knocks by ensuring all clubs have two doctors on hand at each NRL game next year and will consider introducing independent spotters at all venues.
However, the governing body remains tight-lipped about how many sanctions have been handed out in the past 12 months.
The NRL issued an astonishing $350,000 in penalties to the Titans, Knights and Dragons for concussion breaches in round three last year – reduced to $150,000 pending further infringements – in a move widely considered to be a line-in-the-sand moment.
But it hasn't publicly announced any sanctions since.
It was widely considered there have been no serious concussion violations thereafter, but it has emerged the NRL has opted to keep its communication with clubs over the sensitive issue behind closed doors since.
It wouldn't confirm on Wednesday how many, if any, clubs had been penalised for concussion protocol breaches and would only release future breaches if they felt it was warranted.
“We will always treat concussion-related matters on a case-by-case basis, as we would any other issues arising out of the NRL rules," an NRL spokesperson said.
“Some will be in the public interest to disclose, while others will be dealt with privately with clubs. We are committed to enforcing our concussion and head injury rules. We have demonstrated that in recent years and that work will continue.
“The clubs’ compliance with the rules around HIAs [head injury assessments] and concussion has generally been very strong. As a game, we are comfortable that our procedures are in line with world’s best practice.”
It is understood the NRL asked the Sharks for a please explain for an incident involving Josh Dugan earlier this year.
One of its biggest concerns is the damage done to the reputation of club doctors in the public domain if their club is found to have breached the code's strict guidelines about handling concussion cases.
Many physicians have careers outside the NRL, some of which might be their main source of income.
The Knights, Titans and Dragons all vehemently defended the integrity of their officials when NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg announced the record fines last year, but there is no clarity whether it was the last serious sanction imposed on a club.
It comes as the NRL prepares to introduce a range of new measures to help with the detection and assessment of concussion cases on game day.
The sport is already grappling with legal action launched by former State of Origin representative James McManus and ex-Eel Brett Horsnell, the latter which is likely to be expanded to include the NRL.
While head office is yet to decide whether it will have an independent doctor on the sidelines for this year's Origin series after trialling it in 2017, it is planning to beef up the medical presence at NRL games next year.
It has already recommended to clubs they have two doctors at each game this season – some of which have heeded the advice – before making it compulsory in 2019. The practice of using spotters who can relay messages to sideline doctors, as per the NFL and NHL, is also being considered.
"We're looking at more and more tools to support the club doctors," NRL chief medical officer Paul Bloomfield said. "In international codes, like NFL and ice hockey, the ultimate decision about whether to return to the field or not rests with club doctors.
"We need to know whether spotters would pick up more than what is being picked up by club doctors.
"Next year the clubs will have an assistant doctor, say two doctors per club. If a doctor is inside doing something else there's still another doctor on the sideline.
"Because it is a difficult and complex thing, the team doctor will have an opportunity to discuss it with someone who does know the players. The US talks about it like having a pilot and co-pilot.
"If the pilot wants a second opinion they're got someone there ready who knows them and are happy to talk to and knows the players."
The Rabbitohs were unwittingly drawn into a concussion controversy last year when Sam Burgess wasn't immediately withdrawn from the field because the club doctor was conducting a head injury assessment on a teammate in the sheds at the time.
Asked whether he was satisfied with the clubs' progress in the concussion space, Bloomfield said: "Definitely. Attitudes to [concussion are] definitely improving. I think clubs as a whole are being more conservative with their management in game concussion and that's reflected in our reviews of concussions and discussions with club doctors."
The NRL will implement its same concussion policy for its women's competition due to kick-off later this year.
Source: Read Full Article