One of Australia’s pre-eminent concussion researchers, who has been critical of Super Netball’s approach to head trauma, has helped shape new rules around concussion which will apply to netball worldwide from January.
Dr Alan Pearce, a Professor in the School of Allied Health at La Trobe University, was recently invited to speak with former international umpire, Australian Michelle Phippard and leading New Zealand umpire Jono Bredin, who are members of World Netball’s Rules Advisory Panel.
The respected neurophysiologist – who has called on Super Netball to tighten its concussion rules, describing them as “offering vanilla rhetoric around player health and wellbeing” – provided advice about several proposed rule changes for the game globally and the direction he believes the sport should take to concussion.
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Under the new rules, which were adopted at netball’s World Congress in Cape Town on Thursday ahead of the World Cup:
– teams will be allowed an extra official on their bench for a doctor “acting expressly in a medical capacity and capable of administering concussion policy protocols”;
– “in extreme circumstances, where player safety is endangered” a team’s doctor or primary care person can enter the court while play is in progress;
– a team’s doctor or primary care person can “appeal to the umpires to hold time for injury or illness”.
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Phippard explained that while Super Netball has a concussion policy and umpires have been empowered to call for a concussion review, the rules which apply everywhere else in the world don’t currently “separately identify different types of injury or illness and the decision to stop play rests solely with the umpires”, who aren’t medical professionals.
“Medical and scientific evidence shows that injuries resulting from contact with the head/neck area is becoming increasingly more prevalent across all sporting codes and research shows that early recognition and management are key to a quick and full recovery,” Phippard said.
“As netball becomes a faster and more physical sport, specific guidelines are important to protect the wellbeing and welfare of our players,” she added, describing Professor Pearce’s input as invaluable.
“Medical professionals who are trained in these protocols are best placed to assess whether a player is at risk from concussion when an incident occurs.”
Phippard said with “legal liability for sporting bodies resulting from the long-terms effects of concussion currently working their way through the legal system around the world”, it’s vital netball gets on the front foot.
The new rules will be implemented in international matches from January 1 and will filter to grassroots worldwide by September. Super Netball’s rules combine the international regulations with league-specific additions and policies. It’s not yet know if the league will adopt all the new rules.
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Professor Pearce, who studies brain injury and repetitive brain trauma in sport and has described concussion as a “clear, present and future danger” to netballers, said he was honoured to provide advice to the Rules Advisory Panel.
“I believe the rules should be more prescriptive about how long an in-game assessment should take. I suggest 10 minutes rest before a SCAT5 (standardised tool for evaluating for a suspected concussion) is done.
“I also advised that every game should have an independent, league-appointed doctor, rather than using the home doctor as a proxy for an independent doctor, which we see in Super Netball,” Professor Pearce said.
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