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WAFL and WAFLW Competitions Adopt Minimum 21-Day Return to Play ProtocolsMonday, March 18, 2024 - 4:59 PM

The West Australian Football Commission today accepted to adopt new return to play protocols in the concussion guidelines for the WAFL and WAFLW in line with the AFL and all community football across Western Australia.

Across the WAFL and WAFLW competitions, a minimum 21-day return to play protocol will be introduced for the 2024 season.

The new return to play protocols is in line with the Australian Sports Commission (ASC) through the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) and Sports Medicine Australian.

Under the new community football guidelines, the earliest that a player suffering a concussion can return to play is on the 21st day post the concussion incident provided they get medical clearance.

WAFC Executive Manager – Football Operations, Scott Baker said the League’s priority is the health and safety of players.

“Player health is paramount, and these new protocols are a significant step toward safeguarding the wellbeing of our athletes," Baker said.

“We are dedicated to not only maintaining but enhancing the standards that protect our athletes and ensuring the long-term health and well-being of our players, which is, and always will be, our top priority.”

All community football across WA will follow the minimum 21-day return to play protocols which include:

  • Introduction of light exercise after an initial 24-48 hours of relative rest.
  • Several checkpoints to be cleared prior to progression.
  • Gradual reintroduction of learning and work activities. As with physical activity, cognitive stimulation, such as using screens, reading and undertaking learning activities, should be gradually introduced after 48 hours.
  • At least 14 days symptom-free (at rest) before return to contact/collision training. The temporary exacerbation of mild symptoms with exercise is acceptable as long as the symptoms quickly resolve at the completion of exercise and as long as the exercise-related symptoms have completely resolved before the resumption of contact training.
  • A minimum period of 21 days until the resumption of competitive contact/collision sport.
  • Consideration of all symptom domains (physical, cognitive, emotional, fatigue, sleep) throughout the recovery process.
  • Return to learning and work activities should take priority over return to sport.
  • That is, while graduated return to learn/work activities and sports activities can occur simultaneously, the athlete should not return to full contact sports activities until they have successfully completed a full return to learn/work activities.

The 2024 WAFL and WAFLW Competitions Concussion Guidelines will take effect immediately.

AFL and AFLW players competing in the WAFL and WAFLW competitions will follow the AFL and AFLW return to play protocols which has a mandatory minimum 12-day return to play guideline.

AFL and AFLW players will have the benefit of ‘Advanced Care Settings’ to closely monitor the recovery and progression through the minimum 12-day protocol, before returning to play in the WAFL or WAFLW competition.

Considering the typical availability of medical resources at WAFL and WAFLW levels, which often do not offer the same level of continuous monitoring seen in elite football, the minimum 21-day protocol incorporates a more extensive safeguard requiring a longer minimum rest and recovery period.