“There is no law in the game currently saying a substitute cannot be used to replace a concussed player – quite the opposite in fact. At issue is the limitations of the on-field assessment. The real concern is the ability to recognise suspected concussions on-field.”
Brain injury charity Headway has also urged Ifab to introduce temporary concussion substitutes. “Yet again, Ifab appears to be acting in complete contrast to the established practices of other contact sports when it comes to concussion,” said its chief executive Peter McCabe. “While we are sadly not surprised, we remain extremely disappointed with this lack of action and unwillingness to even trial the use of temporary substitutes that would allow for 10-minute assessments conducted by independent doctors.”
It is now exactly a year since landmark research by the University of Glasgow, which was led by Dr Stewart, found that former professional footballers were 3.5 times more likely to die of neurological disease, including a respective five-fold and four-fold risk of Alzheimer’s and motor neurone disease.
Ifab said that their expert group had “emphasised that the protection of players is the main goal and that a clear and uniform approach is needed, which can operate effectively at all levels”. The group also agreed that applying an “if in doubt, take them out” philosophy would be the best solution to safeguard the health of football players. Campaigners say that this ‘philosophy’ should already apply to the treatment of head injuries.