Mitchell Pearce’s selection exposes NRL’s inconsistent concussion protocols

After he copped a match-ending head knock on the weekend, Mitchell Pearce’s selection for the Newcastle Knights’ round four match has understandably raised some eyebrows.

Less than five minutes into Sunday’s game against Penrith, Pearce was steamrolled by Panthers star Stephen Crichton and fell heavily onto the turf.

Pearce was left with a cut on his cheek, and the dazed 31-year-old was helped from the field. He didn’t return after failing the mandatory concussion test, but the Knights managed to secure a draw without their skipper.

Knights star Connor Watson was also sidelined after his ankle injury in the first half.

Mitchell Pearce is helped off the field after a BRUTAL head-knock. 😳

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There was speculation about whether Pearce would recover in time for the Knights’ round four game against the undefeated Canberra Raiders on Sunday afternoon. However, the star halfback was still named in Newcastle’s team list for the match at Campbelltown Stadium.

On Tuesday, The Daily Telegraph reporter Paul Crawley questioned whether Pearce should take the field seven days after a concussion incident.

“Anyone who saw what happened to Mitch Pearce on Sunday, the way he was knocked out, he looked out cold as his head fell towards the ground,” Crawley said on NRL 360.

“Then when he gets up and walks off the field after that, his legs are jelly.

“The New South Wales Rugby League — the competitions under the NRL — they’ve put a new rule in place this year where people who have been knocked out have to stand aside from contact for 14 days. On the 15th day they’re allowed to return to training and on the 17th day they’re eligible to play.”

Crawley also pointed out professional boxers are made to wait 90 days before they can enter the ring after a concussion.

“It’s not the players here, because the players are so brave they want to be out there and Mitch will tell them he wants to be out there and the doctors are working towards the protocols the game has in place, but it’s a shocking look,” Crawley added.

Mitchell Pearce lies injured during the round three NRL match against the Penrith Panthers.Source:Getty Images

NRL 360 host Paul Kent also condemned the inconsistent rules in place to safeguard concussed players at all levels.

“The brain doesn’t know if you’re a first-grade player or a NSW Cup player,” Kent said on Tuesday.

“Therefore there should be some consistency there, and I also think we should probably start erring on the side of caution.”

Former Knights player James McManus took the club to court after a series of concussions in 2015 forced the 166-game veteran into retirement. McManus’ case returns to Supreme Court on June 12th.

Newcastle Knights legend and NRL Immortal Andrew Johns also admitted concussions during his rugby league career may have contributed to his epilepsy.

“(Doctors) can’t be sure what caused it. It could be something that popped up later in life,” Johns said last year.

“But they think maybe — and that’s maybe — a contributor could be some of the concussions I’ve had, some of the continual head knocks.”

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