Former player floats controversial concept to deal with the NRL’s concussion issue

Joel Caine has proposed cutting down the number of players on each side, in a bid to reduce contact and try to deal with the ongoing issues around concussions in the NRL.   

“My view is if the game was 11-a-side – and people are going to fall over here – you’re naturally going to get far fewer collisions,” he said on SEN’s The Run Home.

Caine acknowledged that his radical proposal wouldn’t be a popular one with it completely altering the fabric of the game.

But he declared he would personally love to see the NRL at least explore the idea in the future, if a more suitable solution couldn’t be found in regards to reducing the number of head injuries in the sport. 

“For the last 100 or so years, we’ve had the same size field and we’ve had 13 players,” he said.

“I think the athletes these days are quicker and stronger and will be able to cover the paddock with 11.

“We saw South Sydney play with 11 and score tries against the Roosters!

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“For me, having 11 players – and this is something they can trial next year with dead rubbers – I bet you any money there would be a significant amount less HIA’s, due to the ground being nowhere near as populated.

“You don’t see anywhere near the same number of collisions in Nines.”

However, James Graham argued that the first and most obvious stumbling block would be a resistance from the players.

“There’s going to be two players without a job,” he said.  

“People like me, you’re probably going to get rid of the prop forward. You’re trying to ban the prop, aren’t you?”

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Reducing the number of head injuries suffered by players has become a major aim for not only the NRL, but sports organisations around the world.

Graham revealed that in order to do so, the game first needed to gain a greater understanding of concussions that were occurring and then be proactive in implementing new strategies to deal with them.

“I think the answer lies in technology,” Graham said.

“At the moment, it is so subjective. I know there’s a system where they look at blood biomarkers to definitively say whether or not you have a concussion.

“I’d also like to see brain scans introduced as an annual thing, while you’re playing.”

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