A general view of the 2023 AFLW Pride Round footballs. Picture: AFL Photos

ALL FOOTBALLERS playing outside the AFL and AFLW competitions will have to wait 21 days after suffering a concussion before returning to play, under new protocols announced by the AFL.

The existing minimum of 12 days on the sidelines after being concussed will continue to operate for AFL and AFLW players.

The new protocol will operate in all other Australian football competitions, including the VFL and VFLW, Coates Talent Leagues and all community football competitions for senior and junior players.


The AFL said it would work with all leagues and governing bodies, including the WAFL and SANFL, to encourage the new protocols to be adopted in all football matches outside the elite men's and women's competitions.

The League said the "advanced care settings" and increased medical oversight for concussed AFL and AFLW players would allow them to continue with the three-stage, 11-step return to play protocols - with a mandatory minimum absence of 12 days - that have operated since the 2021 season.

Those protocols will apply even if AFL- and AFLW-listed players are concussed at state-league level.

The AFL's updated protocols for community football are in line with the Australian Institute of Sport's Concussion and Brain Health Position Statement released earlier this year, which recommended a minimum of 21 days before returning to play after concussion.

AFL general counsel Stephen Meade said the League's concussion guidelines were "the most stringent concussion protocols in Australian sport" and they reflected the AFL's commitment to player safety "at all levels".

"The updated community guidelines represent a significant step in the AFL's existing record of ongoing improvements to its concussion management strategy that reflect medical research and other learnings over time.

"We play a contact sport and there is always going to be risk, however over recent years we have continued to take action to strengthen match-day protocols and amend the Laws of the Game to discourage high contact, and we will continue to do so.

"We continue to listen and learn from the medical and scientific professionals and take action to deal with the important topic of concussion and player safety.

"While there are risks of injury in our sport, we will continue to act to reduce and manage those risks, and there are also many very significant physical and mental health benefits of playing our great game."