SYDNEY (AP)The National Rugby League on Wednesday said any player diagnosed with a concussion will be automatically sidelined for 11 days in one of the biggest changes to its player safety protocols in nearly a decade.

The Australian Rugby League Commission, which administers the NRL, met on Tuesday to determine updates to the game’s concussion policy. The rules will come into effect from Thursday’s third-round opener between Manly and Parramatta.

Under the new 11-day shutdown rule, players who have sustained a concussion will be guaranteed to miss the following weekend’s match, and potentially a second game depending on the schedule.

Players will only be able to return sooner in exceptional circumstances, after being given approval from an NRL-appointed independent neurologist.

The rules come into effect as Australian rules football players in the Australian Football League initiated a class-action suit against the league, seeking up to one billion Australian dollars ($670 million) in damages. More than 200 former players are expected to be part of the court action.

The NRL said its changes are about player safety rather than legal threats, following advice from experts and after watching worldwide trends.

“There is no greater priority for us than player safety. It’s front and center of everything we do,” ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys said. “Our current head injury protocols are exceptionally strong.

“Following a review of the data and the expert advice we have received, the commission have enhanced these protocols even further by providing a mandatory 11-day stand down period following a diagnosed concussion.”

The updated protocols mark the biggest change to the NRL’s approach to concussions since the introduction of the head injury assessment system in 2014. They bring rugby league into line with the governing body for international rugby union, which last year introduced an 11-day shutdown period.

Manly coach Anthony Seibold on Wednesday approved of the move by the NRL, having seen the World Rugby system first-hand in the 15-a-sode code during his time as an assistant coach with England.

“I have experienced it before and would have no qualms with it,” Seibold said. “It’s about protecting the players and protecting their health, both in the short-term and long-term.”

The changes come days after the latest concussion sustained by Kalyn Ponga of the Newcastle Knights. Ponga has had four concussion in 10 months.

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