Michael Burgess is a sports writer for the Herald on Sunday.

League: Game may finally be taking head knocks seriously

Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will miss tonight's game. Photo / photosport
Roger Tuivasa-Sheck will miss tonight's game. Photo / photosport

It's somewhat of a relief that Roger Tuivasa-Sheck isn't playing for the Warriors tonight.

It might also be a sign - in a small way - league is finally starting to take head injuries and concussion seriously.

Tuivasa-Sheck took a heavy knock against the Storm, after he got his head in the wrong place when attempting a tackle.

It looked savage, and the Warriors skipper was shaky when he got to his feet.

The Warriors have followed concussion protocols and their fullback hasn't passed, so he's not playing. But on reflection, he really should have never been in contention for tonight's match against the Bulldogs in Dunedin.

This is not a slight against the Auckland club, who have their own strict guidelines and tend to have a higher duty of care and sense of player welfare than many other NRL franchises.

But it might be time for the NRL to investigate a mandatory one-week stand-down for any player who has been concussed, to take away the grey area.

Obviously it is a difficult issue, but it's something that clubs, coaches, doctors, stakeholders, fans and even media have to understand.

Nothing is more important than a player's health, especially with the documented short and long-term impact of head injuries.

Other injuries are different. If a player - and his club - want to take chances with a busted ankle, broken hand or damaged rib cartilage, that might be foolhardy but it is part of the sport.

Head injuries can't be. The game has moved on since Dean Lonergan's infamous shuffle in 1991, when the Kiwis second rower was convulsing on the field after a collision with Kangaroos prop Steve Roach. He was clearly in a bad way, but returned to the field later to play his part in New Zealand's 24-8 victory. Those days are gone, and there is growing awareness around concussion, with the premature retirement of Liam Fulton and James McManus and the well publicised cases of 1980s stars Ian Roberts and Mario Fenech.

The NRL has also toughened its stance, with the fine levied on Parramatta last year when Nathan Peats played on despite a head knock.

The sport is getting more confrontational and the growing emphasis on wrapping up the ball only increases the risk of more head clashes.

It's an apt time to act.

- NZ Herald

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