AFL Prioritizes Player Safety with Mandatory 21-Day Concussion Protocol at Local Level

AFL Prioritizes Player Safety with Mandatory 21-Day Concussion Protocol at Local Level

The Australian Football League (AFL) has taken a significant step towards player safety by implementing a mandatory 21-day concussion protocol at the local level. This new guideline, effective immediately, applies to all community football competitions affiliated with the AFL.

Previously, concussion management at the local level lacked standardized protocols, often relying on individual player discretion and varying medical expertise. This inconsistency raised concerns about players returning to play too soon, potentially putting their long-term health at risk.

The new 21-day protocol establishes a clear minimum timeframe for recovery, ensuring players receive adequate time to heal and undergo a comprehensive assessment before returning to the field. This standardized approach aligns with protocols already in place at the professional level, promoting consistency and best practices across all levels of the game.

Key Features of the New Concussion Protocol:

  • Minimum 21-day rest period: Following a confirmed concussion diagnosis, players must rest from all football-related activities for a minimum of 21 days. This period allows the brain sufficient time to heal and minimizes the risk of further complications.
  • Graduated return-to-play process: After the initial rest period, players will undergo a structured return-to-play program overseen by qualified medical professionals. This program involves gradual increases in physical activity, with each stage contingent on successful completion of the previous one.
  • Medical clearance required: Prior to resuming full participation, players must receive medical clearance from a qualified healthcare professional. This ensures their symptoms have fully resolved and they are deemed fit to return to play without undue risk.

Benefits of the New Protocol:

The implementation of the 21-day concussion protocol at the local level offers several crucial benefits:

  • Improved player safety: By enforcing a minimum rest period and a structured return-to-play process, the new protocol minimizes the risk of players returning to play too soon, potentially preventing further injury and long-term health consequences.
  • Consistency across all levels: Implementing a standardized protocol aligns concussion management practices at the local level with those at the professional level, ensuring consistent application of best practices across the entire sport.
  • Increased awareness and education: The introduction of the new protocol raises awareness about concussions and their potential implications within the local football community. This can encourage players, coaches, and officials to be more vigilant in identifying potential concussions and prioritizing player safety.

Challenges and Considerations:

While the new protocol is a positive step towards player safety, certain challenges and considerations need to be addressed:

  • Access to qualified medical professionals: Ensuring access to qualified healthcare professionals, particularly in remote areas, might pose logistical challenges for implementing the protocol effectively.
  • Education and training: Effective implementation requires ongoing education and training for coaches, officials, and players on concussion identification, management, and the importance of adhering to the protocol.
  • Resource allocation: Providing adequate resources to support the implementation of the protocol, including access to medical professionals and educational programs, is crucial for its long-term success.


The AFL’s introduction of a mandatory 21-day concussion protocol at the local level signifies a significant commitment to player safety and well-being. By establishing standardized concussion management practices, the AFL aims to create a safer playing environment for all participants at the grassroots level of the sport. Addressing the potential challenges and ensuring effective implementation through education and resource allocation will be crucial in realizing the full potential of this important initiative.