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Peter Ryan  January 24, 2013 7:15 AM

AFL 2012 Rd 03 - Richmond v Melbourne

The AFL will host a concussion conference in March

THE AFL will host a major concussion conference at Etihad Stadium in the week leading into round one this season.

AFL clubs have been informed to set aside March 20 and 21 so that relevant officials can attend the conference that is intended to keep the AFL at the forefront of an issue that continues to grow in importance in professional sport.  

The 2013 season kicks off the following night when Adelaide plays Essendon at AAMI Stadium on Friday March 22.

The Concussion in Sport conference will include representatives from a range of sports and be run in conjunction with rugby league and rugby union, but will be open to any sporting group who needs to deal with concussion.

It will be held one week after the release of new guidelines on the management of concussion in sport that are being formulated as a result of the 2012 Zurich International Consensus Conference on Concussion in Sport held in November.

Concussion remains a hot topic in sport, particularly in the United States
where the effects of concussion on former NFL players is heavily debated.

The AFL is considered a leader in the area with many concussion experts residing in Australia. The competition has admitted to taking a conservative approach in relation to concussion with rule changes and guidelines putting player welfare at the forefront of discussion.

Key speakers at the March conference will be Professor Willem Meeuwise from the United States and Australian experts Professor Paul McRory, Associate Professor Gavin Davis and Dr Michael Makdissi, who are responsible for directing international sporting bodies about concussion management.

AFL Medical Officers Association Officer Dr Hugh Seward, who attended the Zurich Conference, said some new initiatives relating to the match-day management of concussion would be released at the conference.  

"We are adding a few more strategic aspects to the decision-making particularly with regard to how [doctors] should approach video analysis [for evaluation purposes]," Seward said.

During 2013 AFL doctors will have access to television footage on the sidelines to assist them to make an assessment of a player potentially suffering concussion during a game.

Any player diagnosed with concussion during a game must be subbed off and take no further part in the game.

Seward said new strategies would help doctors manage some grey areas around assessment that became clear during 2012, but admitted that in-game evaluation remained a difficult process.

Concussion made headlines in 2012 on numerous occasions and continues to be an issue for AFL clubs and players.

Former Adelaide forward Kurt Tippett missed several games during last year after suffering concussion three times.

Melbourne utility Rohan Bail was forced to sit out four weeks after failing tests conducted to satisfy club officials that he was fully recovered from the effects of a head knock against Carlton in round nine.

The AFL also investigated North Melbourne's handling of Lachlan Hansen after he received a heavy knock against Essendon in round 20. The club was fined for not cooperating fully with the investigation although it was found to have no case to answer in relation to its match-day management of Hansen.  

The AFLPA is also running a program involving former players who have suffered the long-term effects of concussion to encourage honest self-reporting and raise awareness about the importance of consulting medical staff when issues arise.

The AFL remains keen to invest in finding answers in the central questions relating to concussion:
- How to best measure concussion at the time of injury?
- Are there long-term consequences of the injury?

"We are very well placed to provide the latest information and recommendations for Australian sport and we will encourage to have it open to any sporting groups who have to deal with concussion," Seward said.