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Football’s pointless protocols risking lives

Mon 18 Mar 2019

Brain injury charity Headway has hit out at what it calls the pointless protocols in football that are failing to protect players from the risk of serious brain injuries as a result of playing on after sustaining a suspected concussion.

The charity was reacting to the two latest incidents where players were allowed to continue after a brief on-pitch assessment following head injuries, only to later be removed from the field in clear distress.

Olympique Lyonnais goalkeeper Anthony Lopes was allowed to play on for 11 minutes during a Champions League match against Barcelona on Wednesday before having to be removed. Meanwhile, Arsenal ‘keeper David Ospina had to be given urgent treatment after collapsing on the pitch while playing for Napoli in a Serie A match against Udinese at the weekend. No other players were near Ospina when he collapsed, a full 35 minutes after he collided with an opposition player.

"We are deeply shocked and appalled at these latest examples of concussion protocols not being followed in football,” said Peter McCabe, Chief Executive of Headway. "David Ospina’s treatment is particularly concerning and highlights exactly why we’ve always called for an ‘if in doubt, sit it out!’ approach to concussion.

"FIFA’s protocols clearly state that if concussion is suspected – not clinically diagnosed – but suspected, the player should be removed from the field and not allowed to return. This is to not only protect the player from a secondary blow to the head, which could exacerbate the injury, but also to recognise the often delayed presentation of symptoms.

"Both players have been badly let down and left unprotected by football’s failure to take concussion seriously. There’s a real fear that it will take a catastrophic injury to a high-profile player before any real change in attitudes is forthcoming."

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Headway - the brain injury association is registered with the Charity Commission for England and Wales (Charity no. 1025852) and the Office of the Scottish Regulator (Charity no. SC 039992). Headway is a company limited by guarantee, registered in England no. 2346893.

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