Concussion sub protocol proves a headache for lawmakers

By Andrew Warshaw

February 25 – Proposals to introduce concussion substitutes in English football next season seem likely to be shelved after experts failed to agree on the best approach.

The Premier League and English FA are at loggerheads over how best to manage head injuries with the issue about to be debated by football’s all-important lawmakers.

Two different recommendations are understood to be on the table at Saturday’s annual meeting of the International FA Board with the FA favouring 10-minute concussion subs and the Premier League backing an alternative idea of players who show symptoms of concussion being examined for three minutes with the possibility of an additional fourth permanent substitute during that assessment or at a later stage of the game – over and above the permitted three.

Football’s world players union, FIFPro, is backing the FA’s plan and has branded the Premier League’s scheme as a health risk while medical and footballing experts are split over the best way forward.

Insideworldfootball has learned that IFAB will in all probability delay any definitive decision in order for more evaluation to take place because of so many conflicting views.

FIFPro general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann whose organisation represents 65,000 players in more than 60 countries, explained:  “We have been asking for more urgency about concussion in football for years and welcome efforts by IFAB to address our concerns.”

“However, any proposal that continues to give doctors only three minutes to assess a player with a suspected concussion is not a significant improvement on existing regulations.

“In the high-pressure environment of a match, doctors must be given enough time and space to make the correct decision on whether a player can stay on the pitch.

“We strongly advocate for a new regulation in football which permits a temporary substitute for 10 minutes so that doctors have sufficient time to assess a player with a suspected concussion. This would substantially reduce the risk of mistakes and protect the long-term health of players.”

FIFA’s new head of football development Arsene Wenger, the former Arsenal manager, is also believed to have expressed his opposition to the Premier League idea and is instead backing 10-minute concussion subs.

But Michel d’Hooghe, FIFA’s medical committee chairman who sits on the same IFAB-appointed expert panel as Wenger, said the present status quo should be preserved.

“The current situation in national competitions is that the team doctor, who knows his players best, does a short examination and decides, yes or no, after three minutes whether a player can continue,” said d’Hooghe.

“The three minutes are not intended to come to a complete diagnosis but I’m not in favour of 10 minutes and nor am I in favour of a fourth substitution – except during extra time – because it could lead to a lot of cheating.”

“I’m pretty sure that IFAB will have another meeting with the experts before carrying out any trials. There are so many different ideas.”

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