Return to play protocols in place for local footy

March 17, 2024 BY

The AFL has announced new return to play protocols for grassroots footballers of all ages. Photo: MARCEL BERENS/SPORTS MEDIA IMAGES

CLUBS under AFL Barwon’s jurisdiction will join leagues across the country in adopting a new 21-day return to play protocol for players who suffer concussions.

The major shake-up to grassroots football, which was announced by the Australian Football League (AFL) earlier this month, will mandate the earliest a player can return to play suffering a concussion is on the 21st day post-incident, provided they get medical clearance.

The new community football guidelines follow recommendations from the Australian Institute of Sport’s Concussion and Brain Health Position Statement, which outlined the proposed three-week period.

AFL General Counsel Stephen Meade said the AFL’s concussion guidelines are the most stringent concussion protocols in Australian sport and is reviewed on an annual basis.

“Both at a community and elite level, we are committed to continuing to take action to protect the safety of players at all levels of the game,” Meade said.

“The updated community guidelines represent a significant step in the AFL’s existing record of ongoing improvements to its concussion management strategy that reflect medical research and other learnings over time.

“We play a contact sport and there is always going to be risk, however over recent years we have continued to take action to strengthen match-day protocols and amend the Laws of the Game to discourage high contact, and we will continue to do so.

“We continue to listen and learn from the medical and scientific professionals and take action to deal with the important topic of concussion and player safety.

“While there are risks of injury in our sport, we will continue to act to reduce and manage those risks, and there are also many very significant physical and mental health benefits of playing our great game.”

AFL Barwon has been contacted for comment in relation to the new return-to-play protocols.

At a minimum, a player affected by concussion will miss the two following games.

Players must also complete a return-to-play program consisting of three distinct stages – rest, recovery and graded return to training and play.

The updated guidelines insist on a minimum period of 24 hours (or longer) for each stage, and if any symptoms recur during the graded return to training and play stage, the player athlete must go back to the previous symptom-free step.

Full details of the new community football guidelines will be released in the coming weeks ahead of the local football season.