The minimum break period this year is 12 days from the incident and is not 12 days from being cleared of symptoms to return to play.
The AFL said the 12-day mandatory break was arrived at on advice from the chief medical officer Peter Harcourt and deputy chief medical officer Michael Makdissi, and was designed to avoid repeat concussions and to reduce the potential long-term impact from cumulative incidents. It is unknown whose research the 12-day break decision was based on.
“You have to take the advice of the doctors in your employ and that is where we have landed but it will continue to evolve,” AFL general counsel Andrew Dillon said.
“The reality is 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.”
He accepted the change put added pressure on the doctors over the initial diagnosis as any confirmed concussion would mean missing at least the next match, but they were being supported – and observed – by independent staff in the “Arc” game review hub.
“With the Arc we have got independent people who will look at an incident that might be concussive and refer that to the club doctors but ultimately the decision sits with the club doctors,” Dillon said.
“With the Arc and all the different (camera) angles we can assess incidents in real time and the doctors have iPads and technology on the bench and they can assess that as well and go back.”
He said the Arc had often identified possible concussive incidents in games not seen by the club staff on the bench and they alerted doctors to players to investigate and then worked with the doctor in analysing footage of the incident.
The AFL has access in real time to the testing of players by doctors.
Dillon said the AFL was in the final stages of interviewing for a “concussion lead” and expected the successful candidate to be appointed in the coming weeks.
The league will liaise with state leagues and the associations and leagues they manage to encourage them to adopt the tightened protocols at all levels of the game, and Dillon expected that would happen.
He said that in reality in most junior teams a player already missed the next match after a concussion.
The AFL is also poised to announce co-investment in research into different objective concussion tests.
Tuck, who played 173 games for the Tigers and had a brief boxing career after he retired, was 38 when he died last July. Farmer died at 84, Frawley 56.
Michael Gleeson is an award-winning senior sports writer specialising in AFL and athletics.