FTB: Football must think seriously about introducing concussion substitutions

Featured in the Raumdeuter Online Magazine – Edition #17

Concussion is a recurring issue across the whole sporting spectrum, not just in football. However, whereas the likes of rugby and other contact sports have implemented strict, rigorous head injury protocols, football’s approach remains relatively underwhelming.

As such, medics have once again urged football’s governing body to revise the current rulebook, moving towards a system similar to is used by rugby to manage head injuries.

This would be looking towards the introduction of temporary concussion substitutes – effectively rolling subs that allow players suffering from a head injury to leave the field temporarily to be checked out for concussion, without being out of the entire remainder of the game.

The benefits of this system is that it would encourage a greater diligence and commitment from teams and players to appropriate management of head injuries.

Currently, players and sides do not want to lose their key players to be checked out for possible concussion as for thorough tests they would require being substituted and therefore be unable to play a role in the remainder of the game.

As such, there may be cause for players or even medical staff to underplay the severity of injuries, or take unnecessary and potentially dangerous risks surrounding possible concussions.

FIFPro have been lobbying both FIFA and the International Football Association’s Board since 2014 to bring in urgent change to head injury protocol, and the issue is now expected to be discussed at an IFAB meeting next month in Zurich. They want to see these temporary substitutions introduced as early as next season.

FIFA is understood to be open to the idea of having 10-minute assessment periods of players with suspected concussion, potentially with a temporary substitution.

They follow UEFA in expressing their support of this concept. Teams found to not be correctly treating players with head injuries or suspected concussion would be subject to sanctions.

Honestly, it just seems like a logical move to make. Player welfare has to be of the upmost priority and importance in football, and a move like this ensures that such care and due attention can be given to players when injuries occur – and they will continue to do so, just simply given the nature of football – without disadvantaging any team.

Progress in regards to head injury management and improving the system has been slow, with countless incidents in recent years of poor judgement or mismanagement of concussion and similar injuries.

More has to be done, and medics are therefore right to call on governing bodies as vocally as they have to step up and makes these necessary changes.

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