Last night I attended the top of the table clash between Melbourne and Souths at AAMI Park in Melbourne.
I sat just two rows away from the sideline. In the second half, Dylan Farrell (Souths), Andrew Everingham (Souths) and Sisi Waqa (Melbourne) contested a kick into the Melbourne in-goal.
Farrell stumbled just as the other two went to leap for the ball, as he fell the side of his head collided heavily into team mate Everingham's knee, knocking him out.
What transpired is of greatest concern.
As Farrell lay on the ground in the Storm in-goal, briefly unconcious, play continued. As he started to come to, the Souths trainer treating him, attempted to get Farrell back on his feet. Farrell took 3 or 4 unsteady steps, lost his balance and collapsed to the ground again, still in the Storm-in goal, but within less than a metre of the sideline.
The Souths trainer then signalled for assistance.
He then dragged Farrell's body off the field so that Souths could bring on a replacement, as they were playing with 12 men.
The ensuing few minutes saw the trainer ask for a stretcher. When assistance arrived, Farrell was also put in a neck brace before being stretchered from the field.
Firstly, this incident is not isolated. Round 16, 2011 saw 22 year old Wests Tigers second rower Simon Dwyer suffer a nerve injury in a freak accident on the field. He too was walked off the field with some very mediocre assistance. Since that day, Dwyer has not played any Rugby League, and he still has not fully recovered after requiring a nerve graft.
By no means am I suggesting that trainers should be doctors, but what I am saying is that the game and its on-field player welfare practices is downright abysmal.
Regarding last nights game, why couldn't Souths run on a 13th player immediately after Farrell's injury if play is not going to be stopped? It would not have given Souths an unfair advantage.
If that is too complicated, then why not stop play and get the injured player off the field first?
Either of these options is an immensely superior concept to the current methods in place.
My father-in-law who attended the game has worked as a medic for the Army and for St Johns Ambulance in England during major sporting events. He was mortified at what he saw last night and said, the best policy when treating someone injured like that is to not move them until you can put a neck brace on them and have a stretcher to put them on.
If our trainers are not getting proper medical or first aid training, then they should not be touching injured players, no matter how severe the injury.
Stop the play, the trainer can assess the situation and contact a ground medic to attend and verify if its safe to assist a player from the field and the best manner in which to do so.
Injuries are not that frequent in the game, especially as they happen on field, so these simple practices should be something that is implemented immediately, because all it takes is one bad mistake to make a treatable injury a life changing one.