AFLW: Brisbane Lions fined $20,000

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Brisbane has been fined $20,000 for breaching AFLW concussion guidelines in December’s grand final.

The fine – half of which will be suspended, with the other to be included in the Lions’ soft cap – related to the management of Brisbane player Sophie Conway during her team’s 17-point win over North Melbourne in the decider.

While Conway was not concussed and it was a non-deliberate breach by the Lions, AFL general counsel Stephen Meade said “high standards” had to be met “in the assessment of head trauma to avoid the risk of further injury”.

An AFL investigation found that with three minutes remaining in the third quarter of the game, the AFL concussion medical spotter alerted Brisbane to an incident involving Conway in which a “motor incoordination” (i.e. a stumble) was observed, and that the Lions were therefore required to immediately remove Conway and subject her to further assessment including a SCAT5, a standardised tool for evaluating concussions.

However, Brisbane’s doctor did not see the message from the spotter and Conway played out the remainder of the third quarter.

Once alerted to the message at three-quarter time, the doctor assessed Conway, who said she had lost balance due to “physical exhaustion”, rather than contact with any player.

While the doctor reviewed video footage of the incident, Conway returned to action for the opening few minutes of the fourth quarter still without a SCAT5 having been conducted.

She was then taken off the field to have a SCAT5. With no symptoms, deficits or abnormalities being identified, Conway was cleared to play out the rest of the match.

While Brisbane’s breach of the concussion guidelines were deemed at the “lower end of the scale”, the Lions were still sanctioned.

“The AFL is committed to protecting the health and safety of all players and requires strict compliance with concussion guidelines from our clubs,” Meade said.

“Whilst we acknowledge that Brisbane’s breach was not deliberate, and Conway did not in fact suffer a concussion, we set high standards that must be met in the assessment of head trauma to avoid the risk of further injury.”

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