May 1 – Tottenham Hotspur manager Mauricio Pochettino insists his medical staff followed UEFA protocol after defender Jan Vertonghen was briefly allowed to return to the field despite suffering a serious-looking head injury in the Champions League semi-final loss to Ajax on Tuesday.
Vertonghen needed treatment on a badly gashed nose wound after a clash of heads and the referee allowed him to continue, only for the Belgian to be substituted just seconds later when had to be helped down the tunnel, unable to walk unaided.
Vertonghen has since been given the all-clear by Spurs though he will be further assessed over the coming days.
“I wasn’t involved. It was the doctor’s decision.” said Pochettino following his side’s 1-0 first-leg defeat against slicker, quicker, fitter opponents who have defied all predictions by winning away at Real Madrid, Juventus and now Tottenham.
“Our medical staff followed the protocol and they decided that it was possible for him to play again. But of course it was Jan in that moment, in the following action he started to feel unwell and we needed to change him.”
UEFA implemented new concussion procedures across all of its competitions following approval by the Executive Committee in September 2014.
Champions League regulations state: “Any player suffering a head injury that requires assessment for potential concussion will only be allowed to continue playing after the assessment, on specific confirmation by the team doctor to the referee of the player’s fitness to do so.”
Brain injury charity Headway has called for football’s authorities to introduce “temporary concussion substitutions”. “We believe the time has come for football to introduce temporary concussion substitutions that would allow for longer off-pitch assessments to be conducted,” said spokeman Luke Griggs.
“Concussion is notoriously difficult to diagnose. The symptoms may be hidden and require the individual to be honest about how they’re feeling, while they can also be delayed in their presentation.
“Assessing a player for three minutes – or even five, as was the case with Jan Vertonghen – does not allow for medical staff to make a reliable diagnosis, particularly when this is conducted on the pitch under the gaze of tens of thousands of fans eager for the game to resume. The pressure on club medical staff is enormous and unfair, particularly in such high-stakes games.”
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