Phased return to play

Players should not be returned to play the same day of injury.

When preparing to return to play, they should be medically cleared and symptom free then follow a stepwise supervised program, with stages of progression.

STAGE Description Functional Exercise Objective
1 No Activity Physical and Cognitive Rest Recovery
2 Light Aerobic Walking/Swimming/Stationary Cycle

No Resistance training

Increase heart rate
3 Sport Specific Running drills e.g. sprint drills/jogs Increase movement
4 Non-Contact Aussie Rules skills drills e.g. lane work handpassing/kicking

NO Shepherding/tackling/bumping

Increase co-ordination and cognitive load
5 Full Contact Following medical clearance can train as normal Restore confidence and assess functional skills
6 Return to Play Normal Game Play


There should be at least 24 hours (or longer) for each stage and if symptoms recur the player should rest until they resolve once again and then resume the program at the previous asymptomatic stage. Resistance training should only be added in the later stages. (5/6)

If the player is symptomatic for more than 10 days, then consultation by a medical practitioner who is expert in the management of concussion, is recommended.

Medical clearance should be given before return to play.

A downloadable version of this advice can be found at the following link: AFLCNE Phased Return to play


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