The National Lacrosse League has taken strong measures to address the related issues of concussions and blows to the head with new protocols and rules for the 2013 season. The league announced new in-game protocols for players suspected to have sustained concussions; all players will undergo baseline testing for concussions before each season; and increased penalties for infractions involving blows to the head. Washington Stealth General Manager Doug Locker, who is a chair of the Competition Committee that developed the new rules, told IL Indoor that the spirit of the new regulations is clear. “We’re telling the guys: don’t hit people in the head.”
All players will be required to complete a Sport Concussion Assessment Tool-2 (SCAT2) test before the season to establish a baseline against which they can be tested during game or practice situations. If it is suspected a player may have been concussed, medical personnel will immediately conduct concussion testing.
Locker says that trainers routinely assess players if they see someone take a blow on the floor that raises concerns. If they believe it’s possible a player has received a concussion, the player will be looked at by the attending physician on site, who will now be able to administer a SCAT2 test that they can compare to the player’s baseline to determine the appropriate course of action.
While they are addressing the issue of dealing with potential concussions, the NLL is also taking steps to attempt to reduce the frequency of concussions occurring by increasing penalties for blows to the head. All high-sticking calls will continue to be at least a major penalty, as was the case last year. Now, however, there is no option for a referee to call a major and game misconduct. If the ref believes the incident is severe enough to warrant more than a major, the call will now be a major and a match penalty, resulting in an automatic one-game suspension.
Illegal cross checking, while it can still be called a minor penalty at the referee’s discretion, will follow the same pattern where it can be a major or a major and a match, but not a major and a game misconduct. The accumulation of two match penalties for high sticking or cross checking will result in a two-game suspension and a third would bring a three-game suspension.
An important element in the supplemental discipline associated with these fouls is that they accumulate for the period of one calendar year, not a season. In other words, if a player receives a match penalty for high sticking in April, another high-sticking or cross-checking match penalty he receives until the same date the next year will result in a two-game suspension.
There are also adjustments to the rules regarding actions when a fight occurs during a game. For any second fight that breaks out during the stoppage in play, players will now be assessed a match penalty rather than a game misconduct, as was the case previously. Players will still be required to return to their bench during a fight (or to their defensive end of the floor if the fight is happening near the benches), but will not be assessed a misconduct penalty rather than a bench minor for failing to do so.
Further, players who fight during halftime or after the final buzzer will receive a game misconduct and a one-game suspension, an increase from the previous discipline of a major penalty.
The rationale behind the new disciplinary measures is to make players immediately accountable for their actions, according to Locker. “The big difference is the game misconducts,” he says. “Players had to accumulate two game misconducts before there was a suspension. The committee felt strongly that in many respects that gave players essentially a mulligan. We wanted to eliminate that mulligan because that’s all it could take to put a guy out for his career.
“Our rules sub-committee, which is all of our head coaches, were unanimous in their support of this, knowing that—like any new implementation—we all may be faced with having guys who are suspended. Because it doesn’t matter whether it’s an intentional blow or unintentional, it’s stay away from the head.”
Locker says there could be an adjustment period to the new rules. “Just like putting the ball down right away that we went through last year in the first couple of games, frankly we’re likely to have scenarios develop where guys maybe suspended, missing game because of blows to the head. But we have to reduce the blows to the head,” he emphasized. “It’s taken too many of our players out of multiple games and in some cases ending their careers.”
The full announcement detailing the new measures and discipline can be read on the NLL’s web site.Stamp is a TV sports announcer and lacrosse lover whose skill set made him a defender but who always dreamed of being a goal-scorer. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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