Wednesday Whinge – Concussion sub is not the answer

With concussion such a big issue in sport at the current moment, the first-class cricket world has been a little bit slow to keep up. This is odd given the Phillip Hughes incident and the change in procedures in almost every sport world-wide including that of  domestic One Day and Twenty20 cricket in Australia. This has resulted in some awkward moments, periods of confusion and potentially dangerous situations for the game and the players playing it.

The concussion issue again rose its head in the last round of the Sheffield Shield game last week between South Australia and Victoria. Redbacks batsman Jake Lehmann swung his bat and accidentally collected Bushrangers keeper Sam Harper in the process at the Adelaide Oval. Harper, despite wearing a helmet immediately fell to the ground and was quickly ruled out from taking any further part in the match.

Victoria were upset that South Australian skipper Travis Head made the decision to not allow Victoria a replacement as he was entitled to do under the spirit of the game. Head rightly pointed out on Adelaide radio this week that it should not be a player decision as to whether to allow a concussion replacement, but a clear-cut rule that then leaves everybody knowing where they stand without any extra decisions having to be made.

The solution is a simple one. If an independent doctor rules a player out for concussion, they are out of the game, no further questions asked. The key here is independent. You would like to be able to trust a team doctor, but with the competitive nature of sport the way it is, remove any notion of doubt and put any concussion decisions in the hands of a high level, independent doctor who would assess any potential concussion cases from either side.

The other discussion point is over whether to let a concussion substitute play if another player has been ruled out. The answer to that is simple. No. If somebody tore a hamstring running into bowl, there would be no replacement allowed to come onto the field and bowl any overs. Concussion is an injury and should be treated no differently, apart from who is assessing a player’s further involvement in the game.

The idea of a concussion sub almost incentives a doctor to do his job properly, knowing that it will not have a detrimental outcome on the game no matter the decision. There should be none of that coming into it. If you are concussed, you are out and if you are deemed alright, a player could return to the field. Any potential outcome of the game should be the furthest thing from a doctor’s mind when assessing a player for a head knock.

The twelfth man being allowed to fully participate in the game or a ‘like for like’ replacement as is the rule in the Matador Cup One Day Competition now leaves too much room for debate. It changes the conditions of the game too much and could easily be misused. There should be no debate around the concussion issue and a simple rule when an incident does occur.

At the end of the day injuries, whether they be head related or not are a part of the game. They always have been and always will. In fact they have been a part of every sport since the beginning of time. The key to a good team is to be able to adapt to injuries within a game and the problems that arise from that. Keep the rules simple and remove the debate.

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