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Headway disappointed in IFAB’s failure to protect players

Sat 29 Feb 2020

Headway has expressed its disappointment after the International Football Association Board (IFAB) announced that more research is required before introducing concussion subs into the laws of the game.


At its annual general meeting in Belfast, the IFAB decided to delay bringing in concussion substitutes but trials could take place as soon as this summer at the Olympics. It appears likely that permanent substitutions would be the preferred option rather than a temporary substitution while a longer 10-minute assessment is carried out. The current assessment period for concussion is three minutes.

Peter McCabe, Chief Executive of Headway – brain injury association, said: “This is yet another example of football failing to act. This latest announcement just doesn’t go far enough to protect players from the dangers of returning to play following a concussion.

“In practical terms nothing will actually change for the injured player because they are still only going to have three minutes to be assessed. Three minutes is simply not long enough to give medics a suitable window to diagnose concussion – a position that other sports, such as rugby, have quickly come to realise.

“In addition, failing to agree to the scrutiny of independent doctors is a missed opportunity. The decision if a player should continue following a suspected concussion should be made by an independent doctor away from the intensely competitive pressures on the team.

“The decision is even more baffling just a few months after the University of Glasgow found that former professional footballers were 3.5 times more likely to die of brain disease.

“Rugby has shown that concussion substitutes can work, and whilst its 10-minute assessment of players is not perfect – concussion symptoms can sometimes take hours or days to show – it would reduce the risk to players whilst also taking away unnecessary pressure on the affected team or coach. It is a simple and viable solution that would protect the health of players.

“IFAB has once again failed to grasp the nettle and do the right thing by the players.”


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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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