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25th Feb 2022

Chris Sutton attacks Michael Owen’s “caveman” view on concussion in heated TV exchange

Simon Lloyd

“Michael, that is the view of a caveman…”

Chris Sutton told Michael Owen that his views on concussion in football were comparable to that of a caveman during a heated exchange between the pair on BT Sport.

The two former England internationals were on punditry duty for BT’s coverage of the Champions League last-16 meeting between Benfica and Ajax, where Lisandro Martinez clashed heads with Nicolas Otamendi during the first half. The Argentine played on for the Dutch champions after receiving on-field treatment, finishing the game.

Sutton has long argued that players need to be properly assessed in a dressing room by an independent doctor after suffering a head injury before they are permitted to carry on.

Discussing the incident, he repeated calls for the International Football Association Board (IFAB) to introduce meaningful measures for tackling the issue.

The Benfica-Ajax game was taking place only days after Leeds United’s Robin Koch had attempted to play on after a collision with Scott McTominay during a Premier League match against Manchester United.

“Player welfare isn’t put first within the game,” Sutton said. “We saw the horrible incident at the weekend when Robin Koch carried on after a serious head injury. Football doesn’t care. It needs to start caring.”

Asked by Owen what needed to be done differently, using the Martinez incident as an example, Sutton added:

“He needs to come off the pitch to the sanctuary of the dressing room and get checked by an independent doctor. In the mean time, he is replaced by a temporary substitute so you are not numerically disadvantaged. It is common sense. Why aren’t IFAB stepping up?”

Surprisingly, Owen challenged Sutton, attempting to dismiss the issue as being “bumps and bangs on the head”.

Sutton replied: “Hang on a minute, concussion is a bump and a bang. How do you know that is not a concussion?”

Owen responded: “If you take what you say to an extreme, every time they roll around holding their leg, they have broken their leg.”

“Michael, that is the view of a caveman,” Sutton replied. “Football needs to catch up.”

The exchange was cut short as the second half coverage began.

Owen’s stance on the issue is reflective of football’s archaic approach to dealing with head injuries. Despite calls from Sutton and the likes of brain injury charity Headway, IFAB have to date only introduced permanent concussion substitutes – which many believe do not go far enough in tackling the issue.

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