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SBD Global/March 7, 2013/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Australian Football League Faced With Concussion, Drug Policy Concerns

The Australian Football League's Medical Dir Peter Harcourt is hopeful an amendment to the substitution rule -- to allow clubs to make a replacement while testing whether a player is suffering from concussion -- "will be in place before the start of the season," according to Courtney Walsh of THE AUSTRALIAN. Harcourt said that "the AFL Medical Officers Association had recommended the league adjust the substitute rule to allow club doctors greater time to assess the welfare of any player needing attention for a knock to the head." It would mean "a substitute could take the field briefly while his teammate is receiving medical assistance but then return to the bench should tests clear the injured player of concussion." Harcourt: "I think that the AFL internally, on the recommendation of the AFL Medical Officers Association, is looking at activating a substitution in order to take the pressure off the teams in order that the doctor can go about their assessment." Statistics released Wednesday in the AFL's annual injury report found that while injury levels overall had decreased, "the incidence of concussion had risen through 2012." But Hugh Seward, who co-authored the report, said that "the increase in weeks missed by players suffering from concussion was due to a more cautious approach from clubs" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 3/7).

HIDDEN IDENTITY: In Melbourne, Cooper & Lane reported the AFL players' union and league medical bosses "are opposed to a call for integrity investigators to be told which footballers have drug strikes, because confidentiality under the illicit drugs policy is too important." Independent Senator Nick Xenophon "suggested the league's integrity team should be told the identity of players who failed tests." Under the AFL's illicit drugs policy, "the identities of players who fail drug tests are known only to the player, his club doctor and the league's medical commissioner." AFL Players Association GM of Player Relations Ian Prendergast said that "the proposal was 'unnecessary and inappropriate' and had never been raised by the league" (THE AGE, 3/7).

AN 'INCURABLE PROBLEM': Also in Melbourne, Jake Niall wrote Western Bulldogs President Peter Gordon has "highlighted concerns about the AFL's illicit drugs policy, which had created a series of unfortunate issues for clubs and players, despite the AFL's best intentions to deal with a society-wide problem." Gordon said the AFL had sought ''to cure an incurable problem'' and the Bulldogs president also suggested he did not feel he had the right to act ''as moral policeman'' to experienced players in terms of what they did in their own homes during the off-season (THE AGE, 3/7). In a separate article, Walsh wrote the AFL medical director said that it was "disturbing that a highly respected football doctor had only a limited knowledge of what his club's sports science department was doing." Essendon's Bruce Reid was unaware that fitness advisers Dean Robinson and Steven Dank "had approached doctors outside of the club seeking supplements." Harcourt said, "It is disturbing and it highlights why we need a governance review" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 3/7).
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