Monday 25 March 2013

NRL 2013: Head Knock or Concussion? Why the NRL needs to make a stand | #2ndTackle #Setof6

2nd TACKLE: So is there an actual concussion rule?
Round 3 News and Views and @NRLTweet Player of the Year Votes

2013 NRL Premiership

By W D Nicolson - March 25, 2013

The Head Knock v Concussion 'Rule' is as hazy as Ashley Harrison on the ground here
This is a new feature on - every week we will post a Set of 6 Tackles that form a Complete Set by the end of the Round. It also features Votes from Round 3 of The @NRLTweet Player of the Year Awards. Let us know what you think @NRLTweet


Ashley Harrison after being KO'd in 2009
When Ashley Harrison went limp on Saturday, everyone feared the worst...
Yet now just a few days later, Harrison says he's fine to play in Round 4.

The scene at Skilled Park last Saturday night was not an uncommon one in Rugby League.

Gold Coast Titan Ashley Harrison lay prone on the ground being attended to by club medical staff and most people watching on were praying that the 31 year old would be able to get up.

The good news was that he could move his arms and legs, but he would leave the field of play on a stretcher and not return to the game - his 250th in the NRL.

Manly forward Richie Fa'aoso was put on report for the shoulder charge - that was more late than it was vicious and the nature of pass that Harrison had just made means that his body 'switches off' from its normal 'flexed' state... so when Fa'aoso hit Harrison - he shook him to the core.

Yes there was a head clash after the initial shoulder to back contact but it was not intentional on Fa'aoso's part to hit Harrison above the torso. But given he did and the way Harrison fell to the ground - clearly in trouble - means that Manly will be without Fa'aoso for 3-4 weeks depending on whether he chooses to challenge his charge from the NRL Jokediciary.

Here is what happened... at 0:52 in the video

@NRLTweet Player of the Year - Round 3 Voting
All Votes from the first 7 games of Round 3 are below.

But this is not about what Fa'aoso did or didn't do - it is about Harrison's welfare.

Harrison has told The Gold Coast Bulletin he will play this weekend... if allowed.

"For sure (I'll do everything I can to play). I've been knocked out plenty of times and in the past years you'd just line up (the following week) and away you'd go," Harrison told the Bulletin.

"I'll see what the new processes are and we'll go from there."

So what are the processes?

Best anyone can tell - the NRL does not encourage club doctors to let concussed players return to the field during the match they are injured, and the same applies for the next week... unless they pass tests.

Hang on, that's the NFL... or is the NHL?

Point is - I'm not 100% sure, and I'm certainly not sure about the NRL's actual policy.

So I Googled it... and here it is.

The key points:
  • Concussion is a disturbance in brain function resulting from trauma that is transmitted to the brain either directly or indirectly.
  • Complications can occur if the player is allowed to continue playing before they have recovered from the concussion. Therefore a player who is suspected of having a concussion must be taken out of the game or training session immediately. Such a player should not be returned to play in the same game. 
  • Therefore it is imperative that all players with concussion or suspected of having a concussion need URGENT medical assessment.
  • In the period following a concussion, a player should not be allowed to return to play or train until they have had a formal medical clearance.
From what information that is around from Harrison's mouth ("I've been knocked out plenty of times") and the NRL's policy - Harrison appears to have suffered a concussion at the point of impact.

But will he play this weekend?

That's where the NRL policy gets slightly grey... there is no hard and fast rule if a player gets knocked out or concussed... as in they can't enforce a player missing a game no matter how badly he was knocked out or concussed.

Wait you say - there's a difference between being knocked out and a concussion?

Of course there is.

Technicalities are huge when it comes to sports injuries (notice that the GC Bulletin article never used the word 'Concussion' yet a quick check of the Titans site found it used in text and by their club physio - note: after this article was finished I found this- given the money that is wagered on the NFL - they have specific rules on players eligibility for each weekend (I'm sure you've heard the terms 'Questionable, Doubtful, Probable' etc?).

From the Official NFL FANTASY Page -


NFL coaching staffs are required to provide an injury report that is updated throughout the week. On these reports, players are listed as:
  • Inactive (IA) - Players are officially inactive for the current game and will not play
  • Out (O) – Not scheduled to play
  • Doubtful (D) – Players have approximately a 25% chance of playing
  • Questionable (Q) – Players have approximately a 50% chance of playing
  • Probable (P) – Players are very likely to start in the upcoming week

Now had Harrison said 'I've been concussed plenty of times in my career' then odds are he wouldn't be playing this weekend, but because he chose to use the words 'knocked out' - he's a big chance of convincing club doctors to clear him. NOTE: A quick check of the Titans site found their Rehab Report which suggests Harrison DID suffer a "Serious Concussion" per their physio yet the below still remains true - it'll be up to Harrison.

And the only way club doctors can clear him is if Harrison says he is okay to play.

That is - not concussed.

"I'm fine today," Harrison said on Sunday. "I didn't have any headaches or anything."

Wondering how the NRL defines 'Concussion'?

Now I like Ashley Harrison - he's a stand up guy and a player who is one of the first picked for the Queensland State of Origin team. This piece is not about Ashley Harrison as much as it is about what happened to him last Saturday... but should he be playing this weekend?

Well that's not up to me, the NRL or even really his club doctors.

If Harrison tells them he's fine and symptom free and passes the cognitive tests - regardless of whether or not he had a 'severe concussion' - he'll play.

But one gets the feeling after watching him laying on the ground incredibly unwell last Saturday at Skilled Park - he shouldn't.

Do you think the NRL should make a clear rule that if you leave the field obviously concussed (the NRL's medical people would HAVE to set up a standard on-field test FIRST to have a hope of enforcing this) then you cannot play within 5, 6 or 7 days of your next game (or have a mandatory game off?)?

Would love to hear your thoughts on what is a sensitive but potentially life saving issue. 

Is a game of footy worth risking a career and possibly a life?

PS. I sincerely hope Ashley Harrison is 100% fine today and never has any issues in the future, but I have yet to even scratch the surface on the impact of concussions that go un-rested in the NFL and NHL in particular.

For interest's sake - check out this standard post-concussion management process.

Warrick D. Nicolson

Do you think Harrison should be the one to decide if he plays this weekend?
Please comment below or reply on Twitter.

Keep a lookout for the rest of the 3rd Set of Six on published on Tuesday.

Round 3 - Six points that emerged from a four day footy week.
A tip of the hat to the SMH's 'Set of 6' and Andy Wilson's 'Set of 6' for the name, as Complete Set just doesn't roll off the tongue quite as well, and well call it flattery that you've already used it.
FIRST TACKLE - Did Slater bring this on himself?
See article here...

SECOND TACKLE - Harrison will decide if he's concussed or not... should he?
See article above.
To be added
For The Postman's analysis of each game for Round 3, with our NRL Dream Team and NRL Super Coach tips for players you need to consider/ignore from each side - click here.

To be added
To be added
To be added
@NRLTweet Player of the Year Award
Round 3 Votes

As regular readers of and followers of @NRLTweet know - we run The @NRLTweet Player of the Year Awards each season (starting in 2010) and they return once again for 2013 with another group of excellent Rugby League judges.

You can follow the Votes live after each game via this Hashtag #NRLTweetPOTY

One of the reasons we set this up is the Dally M Award lacks the kind of objectivity that a true player of the year award really should have, and while we aren't claiming our system is perfect - it is judged on what happens on the field with reputations and bias left by the wayside.

This is how the votes were handed out for Round 3.

@NRLTweet Player of the Year - Round 3 Voting
MEL 22-18 CBY
8 - B Slater, 2 - C Smith C Cronk D Low.
Voters | Warrick Nicolson @nrltweet Matthew Duncan @mrpeninsula |
WTG 31-18 PAR
8 - R Farah, 3 - C Lawrence, 2 - M Koroibete, 1 C Sandow.
Voters| Justin Davies @dragonpunk12 Greg Delaney @gregdelaney84 |
GLD 14-12 MAN
4 - N Myles L Bailey S Matai, 1 - A Sezer K Foran.
Voters | Matt Vickers @mercurialmattyv Matt Spillane @devonhead |
Voters | Ben Hoese @gunnermcdagget Matthew Duncan @mrpeninsula |
CRO 28-4 WAR
Voters | Maria Tsialis @mtsialis Ben Jones @benwah87 |
PEN 32-44 SOU
8 - G Inglis, 3 - J Sutton, 2 - S McKendry, 1 - B Te'o.
Voters | Adrian McMurray @adrmcm Matt Trodden @trods2906 |
CAN 30-17 STI
8 - R Robinson, 3 - J Croker, 2 - S Fensom, 1 - J Edwards.
Voters | Matt Spillane @devonhead Greg Delaney @gregdelaney84 |
Voters | Warrick Nicolson @nrltweet Nigel Wilbow @parramatters

Round 2 Leaderboard (Full update after completion of Round 3):
16 - C Cronk
11 - C Sandow
10 - J Thurston
9 - T Carney
8 - P Gallen, S Burgess, J Jackson, S Johnson

You can follow the Votes live after each game via this Hashtag #NRLTweetPOTY

Share your thoughts on the footy so far by commenting below or replying on Twitter.

The NRL Injury List is updated regularly during each week of the season, making it an invaluable Fantasy and Tipping Tool alongside our Weekly NRL Previews once again.

Remember if you want game-specific Late Mail every week, then check out our Round Previews Every Wednesday and they are updated with all the very latest Late Mail on Friday.

If we are missing any players on this list - please comment below, reply on Twitter or email this address.
Who will take Ben Barba's mantle as champion in the 2013 @NRLTweet Player of the Year Awards?

The Prestigious Award returns for a 4th season in 2013.

Remember you can track all the votes each week after each match in 2013 via the Twitter hashtag #nrltweetpoty