A leading brain injury charity has questioned football’s reluctance to introduce concussion substitutes following Tuesday night’s incidents involving Son Heung-min and James Milner.
Tottenham Hotspur forward Son was forced off against Champions League opponents Marseille in the 30th minute after a collision with defender Chancel Mbemba.
Liverpool’s Milner had to be substituted early in the second half of his side’s win over Napoli after being involved in a clash of heads in the first half.
Milner carried on playing after receiving medical treatment but then went down off the ball within the opening minute of the second half.
Both players were taken off as regular substitutes as there are currently no concussion substitutes in any UEFA competitions, unlike the Premier League.
Luke Griggs, interim chief executive of brain injury charity Headway, said: “The assessment of players for potential concussion remains extremely challenging for medics.
“They are not helped by football’s continued and unjustifiable reluctance to introduce temporary concussion substitutes that would enable extended assessments in the quiet confines of a dressing room, away from the intense atmosphere of the pitch.
“We have repeatedly warned football of the risk it is taking with the short and long-term health of players. This should be a concern not only for elite-level players who are being allowed to return to the field of play potentially concussed, but we should all be concerned by the impact this is having on grassroots and youth players who follow examples they see on their screens.
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“’If in doubt, sit it out!’ is supposedly at the heart of concussion protocols in all sports. And yet too often we see teams fail to take that approach. Instead, the approach seems to be ‘let’s see how they get on for the next 15 minutes’, during which time they risk exacerbating the effect 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 the introduction of temporary concussion subs in all competitions but more importantly we need to see a change in attitude from IFAB, UEFA, FIFA when it comes to brain injury in football.”
UEFA trialled concussion substitutes at the 2021 European Under-21 Championship finals in Hungary and Slovenia. They also planned on using it for the under-17 and under-19 finals in 2020-21, but the tournaments were cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Concussion replacements are currently an option in the Premier League and the WSL. It was also trialled at the Club World Cup in Qatar last year.
Concussion, the ‘invisible injury’: What are the rules in football and what should be done?
(Photo: Valerio Pennicino – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)
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Anthony Hay is a Deputy News Editor for The Athletic UK. He was previously an Assistant Sports Editor at the MailOnline, where he spent six years working out of their London office. Follow Anthony on Twitter @Anthony_Hay