Headway question IFAB's decision to trial permanent concussion substitutes 11 months ago

Headway question IFAB's decision to trial permanent concussion substitutes

Headway, the brain injury charity, has repeatedly called for football to introduce temporary substitutions

Brain injury charity Headway have expressed their disappointment at the International Football Association Board’s (IFAB) decision to trial permanent concussion substitutes, rather than temporary.

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A statement released by IFAB on Wednesday confirmed that extensive trials with additional permanent substitutions for actual or suspected concussion will take place from January 2021.

Headway has repeatedly called for more action to be taken from football's authorities when dealing with head injuries in the game, regularly recommending the introduction of temporary substitutions to assess if a player is suffering from the effects of concussion. Although IFAB's decision to trial permanent concussion substitutes could be viewed as a step forward, the charity has questioned if the development will lead to any significant changes.

"The overwhelming tide of pressure on football authorities meant that they simply had to act to improve the way the sport deals with concussion," said Headway Chief Executive Peter McCabe, in response to IFAB's announcement.

"Headway has been calling for concussion substitutes for years – and yet rather than celebrating this development, we’re left to question what difference this will actually make if IFAB moves forward with permanent, rather than temporary substitutes.

"The key questions are how will players be assessed for suspected concussion, and how will decisions be made about whether they should be permanently removed?

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"The benefit of a temporary concussion substitution is that it allows for the player to be assessed off the pitch, in a quiet, appropriate treatment room away from the heat of battle and the glare of players, officials, coaches and fans.

"We know how difficult it can be for club medics to make concussion assessments on or at the side of the pitch, particularly in such a short space of time or when there are language barriers.

"If these decisions continue to be made in the same way, it is very hard to see how player welfare will be improved."

The topic of concussion in football has been thrust back into the spotlight following the clash of heads between Wolves striker Raul Jimenez and Arsenal's David Luiz during the early stages of a Premier League game at the end of November. Jimenez is recovering from a resulting fractured skull and, while Luiz was not seriously injured, was deemed fit enough to play the remainder of the first half of the game.

Speaking to JOE at the time, Luke Griggs, Deputy Chief Executive at Headway, criticised football's lack of action in introducing stricter protocols for dealing with concussion, describing the sport's slow response as "unacceptable".

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The timing of the IFAB announcement comes just days after former Tottenham defender Jan Vertonghen revealed a head injury picked up in a semi-final clash against Ajax had caused him to experience dizziness for months.