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AFL urged to follow NFL lead on knocks

BEN Graham, the former Geelong captain now working with the Western Bulldogs, says the AFL should consider a mandatory week off for concussed players.

Graham, who has returned to the AFL after eight years as a punter with four clubs in the NFL, has seen how head injuries, concussion and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) have emerged as key and worrying issues in America's No. 1 sport.

The AFL has ramped up its awareness programs and treatment of concussed players, with Graham suggesting a further step.

''Everyone responds differently to a hit in the head. While there are symptoms there, it should almost be a blanket week off,'' he said.

''Some may need more [time], some may be able to play if they respond well. I am not a doctor, but gone are the days when coaches put that pressure on doctors to get a player up who is suffering a head injury.

''It worked last year in the NFL. It's not something to be messed with. If … you are put back on with serious concussions, then there are serious repercussions, and they have a case to answer for down the track.''


Having already introduced more rigid testing on match day, the AFL is looking at overhauling its concussion guidelines after a number of its medicos attended a conference in Zurich last month. Club doctors may now be able to make greater use of television footage in their assessment of players.

AFL research shows there are about six concussions per team per season.

Graham said players responded differently to head knocks.

''It's day-by-day. Some guys show those symptoms later in the week,'' he said. ''They may be cleared to play after day two but after day five they are back in bed.''

Geelong superstar Steve Johnson admitted last season that he had even required a concussion test and caffeine tablets on the morning of the round 19 clash against Hawthorn to prove he should play after he was heavily bumped by Adelaide's Scott Thompson a week earlier.

''The worst-case scenario is if he convinces the doctors he is right, and gets another hit, and it affects him greatly when he finishes playing, well, everyone is non-the-wiser until it happens,'' Graham said.

''The nature of concussions has certainly been brought on to the front page thanks to the NFL.

''A good friend of mine … his career basically finished [when he was told] one more concussion for him and he may not have been able to put his kids to bed. He was affected by it greatly.''