Super League introduce ’18th man’ rule as concussion protocol increased to 12 days

The RFL are constantly trying to improve the sport whilst also protecting players and that’s something that’s been key in recent years, particularly with the onset of the pandemic.

That was one of the more simple medical policy changes that the RFL announced ahead of the upcoming season, teams no longer have to follow a specific COVID policy.

Laura Fairbank, RFL’s Head of Medical standards, announced the news: “There is no exclusive COVID policy contained within the medical standard for 2023.”

She continued with further information surrounding changes to the Get Ready To Play time period, the Head Injury Assessment and also the introduction of the 18th man, as seen at the World Cup.

On the topic of GRTP period after a failed HIA: “We have gone to 12 days, last year we were on 11. We reviewed the World Rugby model so it’s in line with that.

“The extra day falls before contact training and builds in a further day of exercise recovery which it’s indicated can help a more thorough recovery from concussion. There is no accelerated GRTP options and the basic will be 12 days providing there’s been no complications.”

On HIA’s which occur when a player takes a blow to the head and is then reviewed before returning it was urged that players continue to self report and to help with that the RFL are set to introduce the 18th man for the 2023 season.

“A law change in this space as well is around the 18th player interchange. It was used within the World Cup and it’s when a team has three players fail a HIA within the same match, there’s the option to introduce a named player as your 18th interchange but only in the instance of players failing a HIA.

“That supports what we’re trying to do in terms of looking after players and reporting concussion. We know they may not report if they feel they’re going to let the team down but if they know there’s another man on the bench they can report them.”

Media star and former player Brian Carney then posed the question surrounding if all HIA failures would result in the standard 12 day GRTP protocol.

Fairbank cleared up the matter: “When we discussed it (the possibility of players returning the next game after a failed HIA) at the laws committee it was talked about and ultimately around gamesmanship potentially.

“It was if we felt a team would potentially use the system to get an extra fresh player on the field, at the risk of having three players sat out for the week following with the GRTP. So no they can’t fail a HIA and then return the following week, they must go through that GRTP process.”

A further point of note surrounding the RFL’s further research and efforts into making the game safer was the clarification from Robert Hicks, Director of Operations and Legal, that the ongoing claim against the RFL wasn’t prompting current research.

“This isn’t driven by insurance or the legal claim, it’s driven by knowledge, date and information in a fast-moving space. Our insurers are comfortable with where we are, there is an increased premium because there is a increased risk in this area but the claim doesn’t have any impact on our insurance premium because it’s a legacy claim in effect. But the reality is that the sport has to change and adapt as and when information is known,” Hicks stated.

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