Players who have been concussed will spend a compulsory 12 days out of football as community leagues move to adopt new protocols introduced by the sport's governing body.
The AFL will enforce its concussion stand down rule and implement a sweep of preventive measures across all levels of football.
The steps involved are a brief period of complete physical and cognitive rest (24-48 hours), a period of symptom-limited activity (such as reading, walking) to allow full recovery, a graded loading program with monitoring, and clearance by a medical doctor before returning to full-contact training or matchplay.
The AFL has heeded that given the limitations in community football - including a lack of baseline testing and medical doctors to oversee each stage of the recovery process - a more conservative approach may be required regarding return to play.
"The focus must be on ensuring that players pass through each of the steps safely (i.e. rest, recovery and a graded return), without a recurrence of symptoms, rather than simply progressing through a schedule," AFL chief medical officer Peter Harcourt said.
"A player who shows symptoms or any signs of concussion during a match or training must be removed from the field of play and assessed and must not return to that match or training session.
"The next step is that the player must be assessed by a medical professional, then move through each of the steps in the guidelines, and finally receive medical clearance prior to returning to full-contact training."
AFL Wimmera-Mallee Jason Muldoon said the regional body strongly encouraged affiliated leagues within the region to follow AFL Victoria's lead as the football community tackles the ever-serious threat of head injuries.
The 12-day concussion lay-off was introduced for AFL and AFLW players earlier this year following revelations St Kilda legend and Bungaree export Danny Frawley and former Richmond star Shane Tuck had been diagnosed with CTE - a degenerative brain disease linked to head knocks - after their deaths.
In a statement, AFL general counsel Andrew Dillon said:"the updated guidelines reflect the AFL's ongoing commitment to the health and safety of all players at each level of the game. Concussion is a serious issue, and we will continue to treat it as such.
"The updated concussion guidelines for community football 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."
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