Crio’s Q? – Tackling concussion head-on!

This article seemed to glide under the radar last month but the twin topics of interchange and concussion are relevant across most of our footy codes.

The Rugby Football League is working with Australia’s National Rugby League on a review of the interchange rules aimed at making the sport safer and more exciting.

The review, to be conducted by a panel of health experts and academics, will consider the number of interchanges and the composition of the substitutes bench using statistical data gathered in both Super League and the NRL over the last decade. The number of replacements was lowered from 12 to 10 in 2008 and could now be cut further in an attempt to reduce the number of potentially dangerous collisions on the field. RFL chief operating Officer Ralph Rimmer said: “Rugby league is a sport that has continually evolved throughout its 120-year history, both on and off the pitch, and its rules have always reflected the way in which the game is played. Modern rugby league players are outstanding physical athletes who are stronger, fitter and faster than ever before. Consequently, we believe that collisions are more powerful, which impacts on the health and welfare of our players. Both the RFL and the NRL recognise our responsibilities to not just deliver a fantastic, free-flowing spectacle but to protect the well-being of our players in an era when the use of the interchange bench means matches are more structured than ever before. We recognise that changes to the interchange rules could reduce the risk of injury by putting more emphasis on skill rather than power and size and that may become more clear from the findings of the joint review.”

The review will take place over the next two months during which time there will be consultation with coaches, club representatives, players’ associations, fans and the two governing bodies, with any changes to be brought in ahead of the 2016 season.

League is recognising that, unless the game slows, they’re going to need NFL helmets and padding: so, hopefully, it is back to the future.

In the NFL, after years of alleged avoidance and denial, it is, in the great American tradition, litigation which looks set to bust open the truths of post-Concussion syndrome.

Last month, US sports watchers were confronted by the unexpected retirement of San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland. The 24-year-old quit after a brilliant rookie year with 108 tackles and many accolades. A rising star with no extensive concussion history, Borland was uninjured and would have earned $530,000 this coming season. But after extensive research, he chose to quit. (Washington Post, 17/3/2015)

Is this the start of a trend, not unlike the demise of once mighty Boxing – or is the lure of wealth too strong?

Sport, it seems, is no longer necessarily accepted as “good for you” and “worth the risk”.

Questions are being asked and lawmakers and medicos must respond.

At the same time as Phil Hughes’ death was reverberating around cricket fields, “cage fighting” was getting governmental approval.

Footy must tackle the issues before they impact on the health of the game and, importantly, participants.

Interchange rules and concussion research must be prioritised.



  1. Great topic Crio. As Phil Walsh said last week – cap interchanges at 80 with no substitute. Tired players are less dangerous to themselves and others than the refuelled battering rams of the current game.
    Club doctors are too inside the club culture and easily overridden by ambitious coaches and short-sighted players. There needs to be a “VRC Vet” to audit and reinforce animal welfare.

  2. Dave Brown says

    What worries me Crio is that the AFL appears to have taken a massive step back in protecting the head since the Viney / Lynch collision last year. The new MRP appears to be looking less closely at head knocks and penalising it less heavily when it occurs. It’s troubling if the AFL is shirking its responsibility towards current players (exposed to much greater risk as a result of strength of impact) because past players and fans don’t like it when their player gets rubbed out for making the wrong split second decision.

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