The dangers of traumatic brain injury in football

Goalkeeper with ballThe perils of traumatic brain injury have been thrust into the spotlight once again by the professional football industry.

There has been concern recently over the treatment of head injuries sustained by players within the professional football world. There is a tendency for the amateur ranks to take notice of rulings made by the professional game, and so if concussions and head injury are treated with the required respect by the professional game, it should follow that amateur players will also see regulations introduced.

In the latest incident, Tottenham Hotspurs defender, Jan Vertonghen, clashed heads with a teammate. After being attended to by medical staff, the defender continued to play, before later being substituted after developing symptoms which could have been related to a head injury.

Currently, under UEFA rules, the game can be stopped for up to three minutes while a player receives treatment for concussion. However, Headway, the brain injury charity, has suggested that temporary substitutions could be introduced to allow a proper assessment of any head injury.

Professional sporting bodies treat traumatic head injury very differently:

  • Football: up to 3 minute stoppage to assess and treat player
  • Rugby: temporary substitutions which can then be made permanent if the injured player cannot return to the field, even if all substitutions have been used
  • Cricket: temporary substitutions are allowed in English county cricket
  • Boxing: as a sport where concussion is very likely, there is always at least one doctor specialising in the field at every fight
  • American football: if a player has suspected concussion, they are taken off and cannot return at any point in the remaining match

A spokesperson for Headway, Luke Griggs, said

Assessing a player for three minutes – or even five, as was the case with Jan Vertonghen – does not allow for medical staff to make a reliable diagnosis, particularly when this is conducted on the pitch under the gaze of tens of thousands of fans eager for the game to resume.

The pressure on club medical staff is enormous and unfair, particularly in such high-stakes games such as a Champions League semi-final.

We believe the time has come for football to introduce temporary concussion substitutions that would allow for longer off-pitch assessments to be conducted.

In addition, independent doctors with expertise in concussion and head injuries should make the ultimate decision as to whether or not a player is fit to continue.

He went on to say that not every head injury results in a concussion, but that the principle of “if in doubt, sit it out” should be part of any new proposals.

If you have reason to believe you may be eligible to receive compensation for traumatic brain injury, please contact us now to discuss your claim.

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