The AFL has doubled its mandatory time out of the game for a player who suffers a concussion, with at least 12 days needed before they can take the field again.
The 12-day return to play protocol was confirmed by the League on Thursday and is an increase on the previous six days required under the 2020 guidelines as the AFL adds further protection for players.
Under the new rule, all AFL and AFLW players who suffer a concussion will miss at least one match under standard fixturing due to the mandated time off.
It means that if a player suffers a concussion in a preliminary final they will automatically be ruled out of the Grand Final the following week. The earliest that a player can return after a concussion is on the 12th day after the day on which the concussion was suffered.
The AFL's chief medical officer Peter Harcourt and deputy chief medical officer Michael Makdissi, a long-term doctor at Hawthorn, have prepared the League’s concussion guidelines, which are reviewed annually.
"The updated concussion 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," said Andrew Dillon, the AFL's general counsel.
"The reality is 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.
"We also have used the technology that is embedded in the AFL ARC to provide another opportunity to identify potential concussive incidents that would not have otherwise been detected."
The AFL will soon also appoint a concussion lead at its headquarters to focus on the impacts of concussion at elite and community levels.