Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge says the club has put “a lot of time and commitment” into Tom Liberatore’s return to football.

But the premiership coach says he is increasingly concerned about any of his players getting a concussion, even if they’ve never had one before.

The Bulldogs on Monday confirmed its star on-baller will return to AFL action next month after being sidelined with a nasty head injury against Hawthorn in Round Eight.

Luke Beveridge scratches his head

Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge has come under increasing pressure with every loss this season.(Getty Images: Paul Kane)

The incident followed Liberatore collapsing on the field with no-one near him during a match in April.

Last week, the Bulldogs’ much-hyped 2023 draftee Aiden O’Driscoll retired on medical advice without playing a single senior game due to a concussion sustained in January.

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Liberatore has been training with the side in recent weeks, and Beveridge said on Tuesday he can do everything a player needs to.

“We’ll introduce him to the main football drills prior to his return to play. If he’s comfortable, he’ll come back into the team,” Beveridge said.

“The topic of concussion at the moment and the effect of it on our game and how sensitive we are to our players’ health, it’s a challenge to talk about. It’s not like he’s just out of the woods, he comes back and plays and everything’s OK.

“Each time anyone who has never had a concussion goes [into] a collision-type situation, you hold your breath. Sometimes you even think, ‘Don’t go for this one, happy for him to mark it,’ because you can see the velocity, the commitment of the players and our guys have rarely pulled out of those.

“With Tom, when he comes back, there will still be that nervousness he might cop another knock. I was talking to him this morning about technique and craft and some of the situations where he’s been hit in the head, and what we can do to mitigate against it happening again.

“We’ll do a bit of work with that in between now and when he returns to play. Ground level stuff, he just charges in head-first, you know, we can do it in other ways, which he has in the past.”

What it took to return to play

The 32-year-old Liberatore “underwent extensive specialist consultation” in recent weeks and has been medically cleared to make a comeback.

“We have continued to be very diligent and thorough in our processes for assessing and managing Tom following his most recent concussion in round eight,” the Bulldogs’ head of sports medicine Chris Bell said.

“This has involved a specialist review and opinion to help guide his return-to-play planning.

“In some great news, after some reassuring results, we have devised a structured return-to-play plan that, if everything goes well, will see Tom returning to play across the next two to three weeks.”

Bell also said Jason Johannisen would miss up to five weeks with a hamstring injury, and fellow defender Ryan Gardiner would be out for three months with a wrist injury that will require surgery.

The Bulldogs are coming off an inaccurate but important win over the Giants last weekend.

The side sits 11th on the AFL ladder with five wins and five losses, and they kick off Round 11 on Thursday night with a clash against ladder leaders Sydney at Docklands Stadium.

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With AAP

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