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The NRL will use an independent expert for head knocks and potential concussions during the 2017 State of Origin series.

With the NSWRL and QRL, the NRL has agreed on supplementary guidelines in addition to the current concussion rules to further aid the assessment and management of head injuries throughout the Origin series.

Central to the additional guidelines will be the appointment of Independent Expert Dr Daelyn Cullen, who has expansive experience in concussion assessment in sport.

Dr Cullen’s role will allow her to:

  • Monitor the Sideline Injury Surveillance (SIS) in operation at each match, and;
  • Assist with the identification and categorisation of concussion signs and symptoms in players.

Dr Cullen will assess and review video replays through Hawk-Eye technology of players who have suffered possible head injuries throughout a match.

Dr Cullen will have the power to immediately rule a player out from competing in the remainder of a match if certain serious signs/symptoms are clearly identified as part of an assessment of the video replays.

As part of the Independent Expert role, Dr Cullen will also have the power to refer a player for assessment by his Team Medical Officer under the NRL’s concussion rules to determine whether a player has suffered a concussion or is fit to return to play in the match. 

“This is a significant step for the game and certainly we will be assessing the success of this new process,” NRL Head of Football Brian Canavan said.

“As the State of Origin team doctors are not the participating players’ NRL club doctors, the use of an Independent Expert is an additional measure of support for the 2017 State of Origin series.

“This will ensure the welfare and safety of players continues to remain the top priority in the game, particularly in our marquee matches.

“Our clubs provide the players for these matches so it is clearly important that we provide a higher level of care and resource for them.

“The physical assessment of a player will remain in the hands of the team doctor. The independent doctor has no part in the on-field assessment or the cognitive assessment.

“But if Dr Cullen views that a player has Category One symptoms, he will play no further part in the game.”

The MAP (Medical Advisory Panel) discussed the new process at its recent meeting and supported the changes, while Mr Canavan acknowledged the support of the NSWRL and the QRL.

 Additionally, an independent spotter - neuropsychologist Dr Andrew Gardner – will be present to assist the Independent Expert in the identification of any possible head injuries throughout the match. 

Teams will remain responsible for the identification, appropriate on-field assessment and management of all possible head injuries of their players throughout the match as per the current concussion rules.

Dr Cullen has worked within hockey, water polo and rugby union. She was also Rio Olympics Team Tournament Doctor for Men’s and Women’s competitions - including video analysis and HIA assessments during competition.

*This report first appeared on

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