In response to the growing awareness of the long term impact of concussions, the Premier League introduced new protocols on how clubs will handle head injuries during matches. Previously, managers and even players could decide whether it was fine for them to play after suffering a clear concussion on the field. In the new protocols, a player suffering a head injury must leave the pitch and the club doctor and a third “tunnel” doctor will decide if he is fit to play, not the manager.
Two incidents this year have brought increased attention to the issue of concussions in football. The first was in a Premier League match between Everton and Tottenham Hotspur. Romelu Lukakau collided with keeper Hugh Lloris and knocked the Frenchman out cold. Instead of pulling him from the match, his manager Andres Villas Boas allowed him to continue for the last 15 minutes of the match. A move for which AVB later apologized.
The second incident was the most high profile as it occurred during the World Cup final. Christoph Kramer of Germany suffered a head injury and stumbled around the pitch incoherent and reportedly did not know what match he was playing in. He was substituted shortly after but he should not have been allowed to continue in the first place.
New Concussion Protocol
- A player suffering a head injury must now leave the pitch.
- Team managers or coaching staff will no longer decide if a player continues to play and the final decision will be with the club doctor.
- Home teams in the Premier League must now have a third “tunnel” doctor on match-days to support the work of the doctors for both sides.
- The “tunnel” doctor will serve as an extra pair of eyes to spot potential concussions and watch TV replays to see the severity of incidents.
- The FA, in conjunction with the Football League, PFA and LMA, is to launch a campaign aimed at making players and managers at all levels aware of the dangers of head injuries.
- The Premier League is to employ its own doctor to conduct research and liaise with all 20 club doctors in the league on key medical matters.
- All Premier League players are to undergo baseline neurological assessments as part of their annual medical check-up to help doctors measure their recovery time if they suffer a concussion.
These new protocols will do plenty to help alleviate the problems of concussion and head injuries in football. It will not solve the issue as the kind of collisions that cause these injuries are inevitable in such a fast paced sport. The Premier League did well to keep up with the times but these protocols should have been put in to action long ago.
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