Peter Fitzsimons: NRL must act on double concussion case video

Fairfax Media

Brendan Elliot's two cases of concussion in the same game place the spotlight firmly on the NRL's on-field player safety protocols.

OPINION: Attention: CEO NRL Todd Greenberg, and Chief Medical Officer of the NRL, Dr Paul Bloomfield.

Dear Todd and Dr Bloomfield,

Hi. But enough chit-chat. Both of you have been commendably proactive on the issue of the treatment of concussed NRL players, and good on you. You have both noted the truth, that the NRL has to change. Never has that been more apparent, since the Knights player James McManus has taken legal action against the Knights for what he alleges is their lack of proper care for him after he suffered a series of concussions.

Newcastle Knights fullback Brendan Elliot is treated for a head injury after being felled against the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
GETTY IMAGES

Newcastle Knights fullback Brendan Elliot is treated for a head injury after being felled against the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Though I know nothing of the specifics of that case, and do not in my forthcoming remarks seek to prejudge that legal action in any way, we all know what is at stake. Win, lose or draw, the ramifications – putting the moral outrage aside for a moment – of ignoring concussion protocols are now bigger than ever, and have the potential to cost the NRL hundreds of millions of dollars.

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Brendan Elliot of the Knights leaves the ground after a head knock against South Sydney.
Tony Feder/ Getty Images

Brendan Elliot of the Knights leaves the ground after a head knock against South Sydney.

Hence why I write to you now.

On Saturday in the Knights match against Souths, with 13 minutes to go in the first half, the Knights fullback Brendan Elliot was hit hard and high, from behind, by the Souths centre Hymel Hunt, who was not even given time in the sinbin for his trouble. 

Elliot went down like a shot steer, and lay there for about two minutes, unmoving. No one, and I mean NO ONE who sees the footage – and the nation was watching live – could doubt that it was an absolute clear case of concussion. And yet, before our very eyes, the player stayed on the field, and took his place in the line!

Brendan Elliot runs the ball up.
Tony Feder

Brendan Elliot runs the ball up.

I repeat: on your watch, in 2017, at a time when the dangers of concussion are known more than ever, and particularly the dangers of Second Impact Syndrome – the acute risk faced by a person who receives a second concussion not long after the first, when the brain is already swollen – the same club being sued for lack of care over concussion, did not even call from the field a clearly concussed player for a Head Injury Assessment! It sheer took my breath away.

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And, sure enough, just 12 minutes into the second half, that same player was hurt again! This time, after a much milder hit, Elliot was taken from the field and did not return.

Todd, Dr Bloomfield, this is MADNESS, and you must both know it.

Most of the commentators don't get it. In this case the Fox commentators waffled on. One complained about how "disruptive the whole thing" would be to have removed Elliot for an HIA, while another complained, "Does he have to go off for 10 minutes...? It will need to have to change somehow for me."

None of them shouted, the obvious: "He's CONCUSSED! Get him OFF!" None of them asked the bleeding obvious question, when after all that, he stayed on: "If it wasn't concussion that kept him down for two minutes, what the HELL was it? FLU?"

Newcastle coach Nathan Brown, has no clue, telling the Newcastle Herald yesterday, when challenged, "If Brendan Elliot does have to leave the field because of that, and then the player does get suspended, who gets the benefit out of it?"

Me? I am going to go with Brendan Elliot getting the benefit, of being removed from the field when clearly concussed.

But you two not only have a clue, you both own the situation, you are the two who are both responsible now, and are liable to be held responsible later, in court, if action is not taken to punish change the NRL's approach.

You, Todd, understand better than anyone the legal and financial ramifications if the NRL can't clean up its act on this. And you, Dr Bloomfield, obviously know the hideous medical risks players are facing, that it is your specific job to reduce.

And so I publicly challenge you both. Look at that footage, and take serious action. If that episode does not move you to outrage, to punish, to take arms, so as to change the culture, I don't know what will!

Neither of you, I know, will come back with weasel words about how "the trainer dealt with it and said he was OK, blah, blah, blah." You are better than that. Those who do maintain that it was not concussion that felled him, must provide the answer to what it was if not that.

 And that footage is so flagrant, so undeniable, not even people on Twitter are defending. Bottom line? Brendan Elliot was badly concussed. He was not even removed for an HIA. He got concussed again.

You must take severe action.

And if you don't, on your heads be it.   

Sincerely,

Peter FitzSimons

 - SMH

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