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Concussion expert demands NRL ban players for reckless tackles

One of Australia’s leading concussion researchers has called on the NRL to hand out lengthy penalties for players who perform reckless tackles.

Dr Adrian Cohen from the Headsafe program at Sydney University has urged the game to back up its talk about concussion with action.

“The week we don’t see a swinging arm go unpunished, the week we don’t see a tackle that involves a blow to the head not result in a player being sent off, that’s going to be a good week,” Dr Cohen told Macquarie Sports Radio‘s Cam Reddin.

Dr Cohen argued making the game safer would not “ruin” rugby league.

“We need to send players off. (People say) oh, that’s going to disadvantage a side. Yeah, and sides that have players with loose arms, who don’t mind the fact they might critically injure somebody else, they need to learn,” Dr Cohen said.

“If they can’t learn, they should be out of the game,” he said.

“We need suspensions that are lengthy. We need fines that are meaningful, and for that money to go into research in this field”.

His comments follow the discovery of CTE, an impact-related brain disease with suspected links to concussion, on the brains of two former rugby league players.

Meanwhile, several law firms are rallying support for a class action against the game.

“We don’t want to stop sport. We just want everyone to be safe,” Dr Cohen said.

The NRL has again come under fire for its handling of Queensland centre Michael Morgan’s head trauma in the State of Origin decider.

Morgan was heavily concussed from a friendly fire incident in the second-half, but was subsequently put through a concussion test, before sitting out the remainder of the game.

Dr Cohen said the handling of Morgan’s knock went against the NRL’s own standards.

“It sends the message that even if you are clearly knocked out, we might still assess you via the HIA and bring you back on”, he said.

“This leads to abuse of the intention to get you off the field and out of harm’s away and make you miss at least the mandatory one week”.