Leading doctor's NRL player safety warning

Darren Walton
A leading medical expert believes players could be at greater risk of injury when the NRL restarts

A leading medical expert has cautioned NRL clubs of the potentially dire consequences of fielding players that are less than 100 per cent fit when the competition resumes.

Dr Antonio Di Dio, the ACT president of the Australian Medical Association, says coronavirus is not the only health risk confronting the NRL before its mooted May 28 return.

He said all NRL clubs had a duty of care to ensure players regained full fitness before being thrust back into one of the most brutal competitions in world sport.

"It's a separate and very interesting issue," Dr Di Dio told AAP on Sunday.

"So now, as you can imagine, every single player in the NRL has a question mark over their fitness."

A Canberra fan, Dr Di Dio said he has no issues with the 2019 grand finalists after consulting with Raiders coach Ricky Stuart on Friday.

"Ricky is a very, very strong and passionate advocate about the rights of players and he would be horrified to play any player who is not 100 per cent fit," Dr Di Dio said.

Clubs are set to commence a three-week 'pre-season' training block on Tuesday.

Dr Di Dio said the onus was very much on clubs to ensure their players were suitably conditioned to minimise the risk of career-ending injuries when the league resumes.

"So either these (NRL) guys are all 100 per cent fit to play or they may not be," he said.

"In which case the clubs could be putting themselves into an interesting theoretical risk if they were playing somebody that they knew was not 100 per cent fit and they were injured as a consequence of that decision.

"I don't have much of a concern in relation with the Raiders because they do have a long history of putting their players' welfare first.

"(But) it's a terrifying issue because an employer does not want to get teammates tackled by (former Manly player) Terry Randalls every day if they haven't been training.

"They will get hurt (doing that) and suffer career-ending injuries."

Dr Di Dio's warning comes a day after AMA president Dr Tony Bartone urged the NRL, in the best interests of its players, coaches and officials, fans and the broader community, to be cautious about its plans to fast track the restart of its 2020 season.

"We understand the financial and other pressures on the big sporting codes during the COVID-19 crisis," he said.

"But we have to put the broader public health implications first."