Concussion substitutes rule criticised after Son and Milner incidents: ‘Football’s stubbornness can no longer be tolerated’

A leading brain injury charity has questioned football’s reluctance to introduce alternatives to concussion in the wake of Tuesday night’s events involving Son Heung-min and James Milner.

Tottenham Hotspur striker Son was forced out of the Champions League match against Marseille in the 30th minute after colliding with defender Chancel Mbemba.

And it was necessary to replace Milner, the Liverpool player, early in the second half of his team’s victory over Napoli, after he was involved in a clash in the first half.

Milner continued to play after receiving medical treatment but fell off the ball in the first minute of the second half.

Both players have been dispensed as regular substitutes as there are currently no alternatives to concussion in any of UEFA’s competitions, unlike the Premier League.

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Luke Griggs, interim chief executive of the Brain Injury Charity Headway, said: “Assessment of players for potential concussion remains very challenging for paramedics.

“Football’s constant and unwarranted indecision has not helped them to introduce temporary alternatives to concussion that would enable them to assess extended in the quiet confines of the dressing room, far from the intense pitch atmosphere.

“Football has repeatedly warned us about the risks to it in the short and long term to the health of players. This should be a concern not only for elite-level players who are allowed to return to the field of play with potential concussions, but we should all be concerned about The effect on both grassroots players and young players who follow the examples they see on screens.

“If in doubt, sit down!” It is meant to be at the heart of concussion protocols in all sports. However, we often see teams fail to take this approach. Instead, the approach appears to be “let’s see how they go for the next 15 minutes”, during which time they risk exacerbating the impact of the initial injury.

“Football’s stubbornness to accept the clear evidence that has emerged in recent years can no longer be tolerated.

“We need to introduce temporary stressors from concussion in all competitions but more importantly we need to see a change in the position of IFAB, UEFA and FIFA when it comes to brain injuries in football.”

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UEFA experimented with concussion alternatives at the 2021 European Under-21 Championship finals in Hungary and Slovenia. They also planned to use it for the FIFA U-17 and U-19 World Cup in 2020-21, but the tournaments were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Concussion alternatives are an option currently available in the English Premier League and Women’s Football League. It was also tried at the FIFA Club World Cup in Qatar last year.


go deeper

Concussion, the ‘unseen injury’: What are the rules in football and what should be done?

(Photo: Valerio Pennicino – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)


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