Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley has backed his club doctor after teammates Zak Butters and captain Tom Jonas did not receive concussion tests following an ugly head clash.
The pair collided heavily during the fourth quarter of Thursday night’s 12-point loss to Richmond, with both players coming from the ground to receive medical treatment.
Butters was left bleeding from the cheek while the impact cut Jonas above his right eye.
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After spending six and eight minutes on the bench respectively, both players returned to the match, with outsiders questioning whether concussion protocols were followed correctly.
“If that was five minutes into the first quarter, both those boys are downstairs getting a concussion test,” former Essendon player Adam Ramanauskas said on ABC radio.
“The reality is the game is on the line. I don’t like it. That said, I’m not going to ever challenge a doctor but… I’m questioning the process.”
Asked in his post-match press conference about the incident, Hinkley rejected any attempt to question Power doctor Mark Fisher’s decision-making.
Under the AFL’s concussion protocols, any players who shows symptoms or any signs of concussion must be temporarily substituted from the match for a 20-minute assessment.
“I gather there’d be some conversation around the collision, but people get cuts in games of football and they don’t get concussion,” he said.
“I’ve got a doctor who’s been with our footy club for 25 years and the conversation between our doctor and our football manager during the game was these boys have got no issue with concussion.
“If anyone’s got a challenge on that and they feel more qualified than Mark Fisher, who’s a 25-year AFL doctor, feel free.
“I think you’d want to be really, really sure you’re not trying to umpire or make some calls from outside the fence when you have no knowledge. We’ve got a very experienced doctor who has the utmost respect in the AFL .”
He continued: “I trust the people who are running that part of our organization in those facets of the game. There was an injury, there was a head clash, both boys were split open, both boys were bleeding, I can tell you all the facts, that’s what was happening, they both got bashed up.
“I spoke to both boys in the rooms straight after the game, they weren’t laying down and they weren’t fainting and they weren’t doing anything silly. They were talking to me very clearly, ‘I’m gonna have a big black eye, but I’m pretty good.
“Both boys, they’re tough players too, we shouldn’t forget that, how tough, because that’s a hit. Those who don’t think the game is tough, that’s a hit.”
Hinkley was then quizzed about whether the timing of the incident impacted the final decision, given the game was on the line.
“Well, I think you are questioning the doctor. I think you’re questioning the doctor, because he made the decision not to do that. You’re questioning the doctor or not?” he said.
“Are you questioning the doctor or not? Because he made a decision that didn’t need to happen?
“I’m not sure how much better I can answer it for you. Are you questioning a doctor of 25 years experience that he made a bad decision or he made a wrong decision?
“I’m not unsurprised that you’ve asked the question around how the boys were, that’s what I’m not surprised at all by how you asked me how they were. They were fine.
“Do you think a doctor of 25 years would take a risk with concussion with the seriousness of the injuries that go on now with concussion?
“I get what you’re saying, but I’m also saying back to you, I’ve got the most experienced doctor in the AFL making these decisions. Where do you want him to go? Go back to medical school? I don’t ‘t know.”
As normal, the AFL will be in contact this week to review the match, but the league may broach why the club didn’t act more cautiously with its players’ health.
“I suspect they’ll (AFL) ask questions around lots of things, injuries, incidents, all sorts of things, but that’s a normal process for the AFL,” Hinkley said.
“It’s a collision that happens in a game all the time. Yeah, they’re never timely, they’re never great, you’re in a close game, you need them out there, but the game is played that way and we ‘re not surprised that sometimes you get people with cuts.
The discussion comes after criticisms have been leveled at both the NSW Blues’ doctor, and the independent NRL doctor for not pulling Penrith captain Isaah Yeo from the Origin opener after a head knock in the opening play.
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