NRL star Kalyn Ponga heads to Canada for concussion recovery

Newcastle will only provide a return-to-play timeline for Kalyn Ponga once he returns from a trip to Canada, where he will seek specialist treatment for the latest in a string of concussions.

The Knights co-captain and Queensland Origin star’s immediate playing future has been in serious doubt since he knocked himself out attempting a tackle early in the round-two win over Wests Tigers.

The concussion was Ponga’s fourth in 10 months and provided a final push for the NRL to change its head-injury protocols, mandating an 11-day lay-off for any player who suffers a head knock.

Ponga, 24, missed the final six weeks of last season recovering from concussion, and this time around the Knights have been reluctant to put a timeline on his comeback as head-injury management remains a hot-button topic in the NRL.

While Ponga continues his recovery, the Knights have been consulting with Professor Chris Levi of the University of Newcastle and Hunter Medical Research Institute. On Friday, the club shared the most significant update on his condition since round two.

Following discussions with Professor Levi, the Knights determined Ponga would fly to Canada on Friday with the club’s chief medical officer Dr Jin Lee to seek specialist treatment.

In Vancouver, Ponga will undergo testing using a device measuring brain activity that is not yet available in Australia. Only after the Knights receive the results of these tests will the club begin considering when Ponga might make his return to the NRL.

“Management of concussion is a complex issue for everyone involved, we see this as an opportunity to gather additional information to assist Kalyn in his recovery,” Knights head of football Peter Parr said.

“Our broader aim, under the guidance of Professor Levi, is to develop a model of care that will advance our capacity in supporting players with concussion.

“Kalyn remains in good spirits and wishes to thank everyone who has enquired about his health.”

Ponga’s trip to Canada follows similar recovery missions to the USA by rival fullbacks Tom Trbojevic, Latrell Mitchell and Ryan Papenhuyzen in the past 12 months.

All three consulted with Philadelphia-based specialist Bill Knowles in a bid to shake off long-standing leg issues.