Record fines for concussion breaches in NRL
Three Australian National Rugby League sides have been given record fines for breaching concussion protocols.
Gold Coast Titans were fined £93,500 (150,000 Australian dollars) for incidents involving three players, with St George Illawarra Dragons and Newcastle Knights charged £62,300 (A$100,000) each for single cases.
The clubs have until Friday to respond.
“These are the heaviest fines proposed by the game for concussion breaches,” said NRL chief Todd Greenberg.
“That it how seriously we take it – we are not going to allow player safety to be put at risk through breaches of the concussion rules.”
All of the incidents occurred in third-round matches last week, with the Titans’ fine relating to English former St Helens back-rower Joe Greenwood, Kane Elgey and Ryan Simpkins during their win over Parramatta Eels on Friday.
The Dragons were fined for an incident involving Josh Dugan in a win against Cronulla on Sunday, while the Knights were sanctioned after Brendan Elliot picked up a head injury during a defeat by South Sydney Rabbitohs on Saturday.
Elliot did not have a head injury assessment (HIA) and played on after suffering a blow, but was removed in the second half following a second knock to the head.
Dragons coach Paul McGregor said Dugan suffered a jaw injury and not a head injury, while Knights coach Nathan Brown said Elliot was cleared of concussion by the on-field trainer.
The Gold Coast Titans said in a statement: “The club will await the formal breach notice details, then assess the incidents and respond to the NRL with the specified timeframe.”
The club added they would make no further comment until “the process has been completed”.
Newcastle Knights are being sued by former player James McManus over the club’s handling of his concussions that resulted in the 31-year-old’s retirement last year.
Greenberg also warned that further sanctions such as points deductions and the loss of accreditation for officials could follow monetary fines for any club that breaks the rules.
NRL concussion protocols state a player must not return to the field if they exhibit symptoms of a loss of consciousness, seizure, memory impairment, balance disturbance (ataxia) or if they fall to the ground without taking protective action.
“In the majority of cases we see strong compliance with the league’s concussion rules but it appears that this did not happen at the weekend in some matches and we cannot stand by and allow player safety to be put at risk,” added Greenberg.
“Where we believe the rules have been breached we will take action – and we would hope that these breach notices will serve as a warning to all clubs.”
In 2016, the US supreme court upheld a £700m settlement between the NFL and retired players who had suffered concussion-related injuries.
In January World Rugby criticised Northampton Saints for their treatment of a head injury sustained by Wales wing George North.
The sport has also made moves to reduce the risks of high tackles, following earlier changes to the way concussion is managed.