Call for football concussion subs
Fifa has been urged to bring in concussion substitutes by the chief medical officer for the global players’ union.
Concerns have been raised about how football deals with head injuries after a number of high-profile incidents, and Vincent Gouttebarge, chief medical officer for FifPro, says the sport’s governing body must follow rugby’s example and allow temporary replacements to give doctors more time to assess an injured player.
Games are stopped for just three minutes to allow medical staff to assess a player with a suspected concussion, with the player then asked to leave the field if further treatment is required.
The Sunday Telegraph can reveal that preliminary discussions are under way between Fifa and FifPro over extending that period of on-field treatment, but Gouttebarge has called for the authorities to go further and introduce concussion substitutes to ensure there is no repeat of the 2014 World Cup final, where Germany’s Christoph Kramer played on for 14 minutes after suffering a concussion.
“Rugby has this possibility to substitute a concussed player with another one,” Gouttebarge said. “In football, we do not have that. If you want to make changes you will have to look at the laws of the game.
“We would have to look at substitutions. We will need to create more time for the medical team to assess a potentially concussed player. This is the main thing. How can we create more time for the medical team?
“That does not mean we should copy and paste what they are doing in rugby. But we will have to be a little bit less conservative and more innovative and proactive in order to protect the health of the player. Of course there is a way to make anything mandatory. The people who are dealing with the laws of the game need to make the call.”
FifPro’s calls echo those of Premier League doctors who support concussion substitutes, as The Telegraph exclusively revealed earlier this year.
It is thought the lack of a temporary replacement encourages players to remain on the pitch rather than leave their side a man short, particularly if they have used all their substitutes.
Gouttebarge believes that must be addressed, starting with an extension of the time given to assess a player with a head injury.
“It takes at least 10 minutes to assess a player on the sidelines for whether he or she has a concussion,” he said. “These three minutes are not sufficient – you need to create new rules for the medical team to do a proper job and make a proper diagnostic.”
FifPro wrote to Fifa after the Kramer incident at the 2014 World Cup, advocating concussion substitutes, but Fifa resisted, claiming these could be abused by teams.
No change to the laws of the game, such as allowing for concussion substitutions, can be made without Fifa’s support. “We are talking to them and trying to make the right recommendations. We are not there yet but we are at least in positive discussions right now,” Gouttebarge said.