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School of hard knocks: KO concern made Ball change his game

Peter Ryan  March 2, 2013 11:43 AM

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Magpie Luke Ball says he's had to change the way he plays

I reckon going back a few years I've subconsciously changed a little bit the way I've gone about it
COLLINGWOOD'S Luke Ball suspects he's changed the way he plays the game to lessen the risk of suffering serious head knocks, but he can't explain exactly how.

"I reckon going back a few years I've subconsciously changed a little bit the way I've gone about it," Ball told AFL.com.au.

"[But] I can't even specifically point out how."

Speaking on the issue of concussion in his role as AFLPA President, Ball said players were becoming much more aware of the potential long-term impact of concussion and conceded he had become a little worried as the issue comes more out in the open.

He said despite the relative uncertainty still surrounding the issue, there was one inescapable conclusion for all players - a macho approach was no longer smart or courageous.

Ball said players must rely on the advice of doctors when they receive a head knock and, most importantly, they need to fully disclose how they are feeling to ensure they get the most accurate diagnosis possible.

"I think we have to be smart as a playing group and almost lead the way with grass roots footy as well," Ball said.

Ball said he had a scan after being knocked out in round one, 2007 which revealed there had been some impact and he needed to take a break for a couple of weeks to ensure he recovered.

"That is pretty scary, but I felt OK and I felt I could train. You can feel OK but being able to make split-second decisions in a game of footy when you have got an opponent [may not be possible]," Ball said.

Ball missed two weeks after that incident and said a sensible approach is warranted.

New concussion guidelines are to be released in late March with a more rigorous in-game assessment to be introduced.

The AFL and AFLPA have also been undertaking significant research into concussion and a working group has been in place for several years in an effort to stay on top of the latest thinking.

The AFL admits it is adopting an increasingly conservative approach in the diagnosis and management of concussion but the players' commitment to being honest about their condition is critical.

Players have indicated they are comfortable with leaving the treatment and decisions around the length of time spent on the sidelines with club doctors and concussion experts.

In a recent AFLPA survey, 99 per cent of players supported, or strongly supported, the conservative management of concussion.

Melbourne player Rohan Bail is currently restricted to non-contact drills at training after suffering two head knocks at training in early January. He missed four games in 2012 after failing weekly concussion tests.

AFL Medical Director Dr Peter Harcourt said on Wednesday that while there would be challenges ahead in implementing the new guidelines adopted following the 2012 Consensus Concussion Conference held in Zurich in November, the AFL would not compromise on player welfare.