Sydney Sixers medical staff are taking a "very cautious" approach over Ash Gardner's return due to the current public interest in concussion safety in Australian sport, coach Ben Sawyer says.
Sawyer told the Herald the star player may be rubbed out for the rest of the season after suffering the seventh head knock of her career on Sunday.
Gardner jarred her head in the process of diving to prevent a boundary.Credit:The Cricket Network
Gardner failed her HIA during the Strikers' innings in the loss to Adelaide before being ruled out of two more games this week.
Sawyer said it "might be a stretch" for the 23-year-old to play the final two games of the regular season this weekend – meaning she would only return in the event the fifth-placed Sixers scrape their way into the finals.
"I think everybody is on the cautious side," Sawyer said. "There's a lot around concussion at the moment and there is a lot that people don't know and understand about it.
"I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing, because I don't think we know enough about it. But I do think everyone's been very cautious about it."
Ash Gardner nurses a sore head after being forced out of the WBBL match against Adelaide at Drummoyne Oval.Credit:Getty
The NRL came under fire earlier in the month after Boyd Cordner returned to the field during Origin I after a head knock, despite the NSW skipper having a long history of concussions.
The image of the Blues captain stumbling to his field before playing on sparked major discussion around concussion in Australian sport, with Sixers medical staff wary of giving the green light too soon as a result.
The Sixers have struggled to build an early foundation in recent games without Gardner, but were able to bounce back with a win on Wednesday night against crosstown rivals the Thunder.
Sawyer said the medical staff are also being extra cautious due to Gardner's history with concussion.
"If it was the first one, I'm sure that maybe we might be able to get back a little bit quicker," he said. "[The concussion] seemed pretty innocuous but she presented the symptoms that are consistent with concussion, so you've just got to back the medical staff."
Gardner suffered the concussion after diving in an attempt to stop a boundary while fielding.
Her head did not hit the ground, but was jarred as she landed, with the on-field doctor ruling her out of the rest of the match under the game's concussion protocols.
Sawyer said that while the concussion was on the "slight" end of the scale, her history is cause for concern.
"As a coach, you'd love to see her out there," Sawyer said. "But smarter people than me are saying it's not good for her and that's fair enough."
The medical staff are also taking a careful approach with 22-year-old Lauren Cheatle, who made her return to the game this week after 661 days out of the WBBL following a string of operations.
Despite a stellar return on Tuesday, Cheatle was pulled out of Wednesday's game in an effort to manage her work load.
"I want her to play every game but it's not being critical [of the medical staff]," he said. "They say that this is the best way for her to return and I 100 per cent back them – as a coach though I'd love to see her out there."
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