FIFA medical chief d’Hooghe uses Schar incident to warn of dangers of concussion

By Andrew Warshaw

April 1 – FIFA’s top medical official has criticised the decision to allow Fabian Schar to play on during Switzerland’s recent Euro 2020 qualifier against Georgia after suffering from concussion – and warned that authorities have to be ultra-careful when it comes to head clashes.

The Newcastle United defender collided with Georgia’s Jemal Tabidze midway through the first half which led to a five-minute stoppage during Switzerland’s 2-0 win.

Schar played the remainder of the match despite admitting later he was “out for a few seconds” and could not remember anything about the incident.

“When a player is unconscious he should immediately be removed from the pitch and should not return,” FIFA’s medical committee chief Michel d’Hooghe told Insideworldfootball.

“This is very clear. I am totally against what seems to have happened in this case. If the player says he can’t remember anything about it, that’s already a serious argument not to allow him to continue.”

“In FIFA competitions there are strict guidelines concerning concussion. We explain in detail how team doctors should proceed but of course this was not a FIFA competition.”

Swiss medical examiners insisted that Schar was ”awake and oriented” when they arrived on the scene. Yet 24 hours after issuing a statement defending their assessment to let him play on in Georgia, he was withdrawn as a precaution from the subsequent fixture against Denmark.

UEFA protocol states: “In the event of a suspected concussion, the referee stops the game for up to three minutes to allow the player to be assessed by the doctor. A player will only be allowed to continue playing on specific confirmation by the team doctor to the referee of the player’s fitness to carry on.”

In Schär’s case there was a five-minute break before the referee was reassured by Switzerland’s team doctor that the player had recovered sufficiently to continue.

The case rekindled memories of an incident at last year’s World Cup where strict FIFA guidelines were ignored by Morocco winger Noureddine Amrabat who refused to be substituted against Iran. He was then being picked to face Portugal just five days later despite suffering memory loss and spending one night in hospital.

Although Schar didn’t play against Denmark, d’Hooghe said he should never have carried on against Georgia.

“When a player is unconscious even for a few seconds he should not continue playing. This is the advice from all eminent neurologists.”

“You cannot be careful enough especially in that acute moment because there are long-term consequences. You should never under-estimate concussion. You have to be very, very, very careful.

“I cannot judge if the team doctor, who has ultimate responsibility, was right or wrong in this case because I wasn’t there. But am I concerned that in too many cases players are allowed to carry on? Yes I am. And I know it happens. “

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