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NRL to assess independent doctor role

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 24/05/2017

The NRL will use this year's State of Origin series to assess the use of an independent doctor for potential concussion cases.

Debate over the introduction of an independent figure has been prevalent since the 2014 introduction of the league's concussion laws, however it has been denied, based on each club doctor's knowledge of their own players' symptoms.

But given the number of players from multiple clubs in Origin, the NRL on Wednesday confirmed doctor Daelyn Cullen would oversee this year's clashes, along with each state's own medical team.

And NRL head of football Brian Canavan confirmed the league would closely monitor the implementation.

"This is a significant step for the game and, certainly, we will be assessing the success of this new process," Canavan said.

"As the State of Origin team doctors are not the participating players' NRL club doctors, the use of an independent expert is an additional measure of support for the 2017 State of Origin series.

"This will ensure the welfare and safety of players continues to remain the top priority in the game, particularly in our marquee matches."

Under the new system, Dr Cullen will keep tabs on players through the sideline monitor, and watch replays of potential head knocks.

Teams will continue to be responsible for identifying players who have suffered potential head knocks first, and each state's doctor will still carry out the cognitive testing.

However, Dr Cullen will have the added power to remove a player from the field for a check if she deems it necessary, or rule players out for the match if she determines they have symptoms.

Dr Cullen has worked in a number of sports, including as team doctor for the men's and women's rugby sevens squads at last year's Rio Olympics.

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