Doctors and coaches failing to remove players with obvious concussions from the pitch has hampered the progress of protocols to prevent traumatic brain injuries, football’s law-making body has claimed.
The International Football Association Board (Ifab) announced on Monday that trials of permanent concussion substitutions would be extended for a year until 2023, saying a lack of consistent action from clubs, combined with difficulties obtaining medical information, meant there was not enough data to “form a scientifically valid decision”.
Ifab’s trials been criticised by campaigners who feel not enough is being done to remove the risk of brain injury. Critics have also called for temporary rather than permanent substitutions in the trials. But the CEO of Ifab, Lukas Brud, argued the current protocols had not been properly adhered to and that he would be working with governing bodies to ensure clubs take stricter action next season.
“We can understand the reasons why people are frustrated, but they are expressing frustration about mismanagement of the current protocol,” he said. “If you don’t take a player off, no protocol will help you.
“If you have a permanent substitute and don’t make use of them, this is not right. We have situations where concussion is not just suspected but evident and it is clear: you must take them out. We have to work with all bodies in sport to raise awareness and awareness will reduce hesitation.”
Proponents of temporary concussion substitutes argue that the sporting consequences of removing a player from a match permanently mean doctors are more likely to leave players on the field. Ifab argues that many symptoms of concussion do not reveal themselves until 30 minutes after an injury is sustained, meaning a temporary replacement could see a concussed playerThere are 144 competitions signed up to Ifab’s protocol trials, although 33 are in Scotland.
Speaking after Ifab’s AGM, Brud did not rule out trialling temporary substitutes once the current process is completed, but he said that difficulties in obtaining medical information on players treated for concussion had further slowed up the process.
“The situation is that we have not received as much data as we hoped,” he said. “Getting permission to use someone’s medical data is different in every country and has taken longer than expected. Only now are we starting to get the feedback. Maybe in the future we will look at alternative protocols, but we want to conclude the trials first.”
The head injury campaigners Headway criticised the elongation of the trials, arguing it risked further serious injuries to players. “This is surely delaying the inevitable and missing opportunities to improve safety protocols for yet another year, leaving players in major tournaments including this winter’s World Cup, and yet another domestic and European season, at unnecessary risk,” said its deputy chief executive, Luke Griggs.
Brud argued that the scale of the work means it will take time. “I don’t like people being frustrated with the timings,” he said. “We’re conducting research, the first of its kind in sport, across 144 competitions. At next year’s AGM maybe we will not have a solution, but we are hopeful we will have a resolution and a clear way to go.”