Newcastle coach Adam O’Brien has defended his decision to name Mitchell Pearce in his NRL side to play Canberra seven days after the playmaker suffered a nasty concussion.
The NRL was criticised this week for allowing Pearce to be named at halfback to face the Raiders in Campbelltown on Sunday after he took a heavy knock early against the Panthers and did not return to the field.
The 31-year-old has not resumed contact training per the NRL’s concussion guidelines, which take a minimum of seven days to follow if all six stages are cleared.
O’Brien said the world’s leading experts have developed the NRL’s concussion guidelines and if Pearce is safe and healthy according to their protocols, he will play.
“Mitch has got to jump through all of the protocol hoops. We don’t take these things lightly here,” O’Brien said on Thursday.
“It’s not Mitch’s decision and it’s not my decision. It’s got to be our doctor’s decision.
“It’s not about me chatting with Mitch and asking him how he’s feeling. He’s saying he’s fine.
“How he was after the game, I would suggest that he is, but in saying that, we’re not professionals on that.
“We have professionals here and we’ll listen to those guys.
“If he’s not feeling good, he’s not playing. I have deep care for my players … they’ve got a long life after footy.”
The NRL’s guidelines say most concussions take seven to 14 days to recover from, which is reflected in the return to play steps.
A minimum of 48 hours of physical and mental rest is required as the first step, followed by light exercise, sport specific exercise, non-contact training and weights, and lastly, full-contact training after a medical clearance.
Players must spend a minimum of 24 hours at each stage and only progress if cleared of symptoms.
Should symptoms return, the player moves back to the previous step before progressing forward after another 24 hours.
Criticism was aimed at the NRL for allowing a quick return to play after such a heavy concussion when lower grade competitions require a 14-day stand down.
When asked if he would support similar changes to the NRL’s protocols, O’Brien said: “We’ve got leading world experts that are across all this that have laid down the current protocols.
“I know I’m not more equipped to add any extras.
“At the end of the day I want our players safe and if the experts and our medical experts are happy with that, then who am I to say any different?”