Footballers’ unions say concussion trial has jeopardised some players’ safety

The Professional Footballers’ Association and Fifpro, the global players’ union, have called on football’s lawmakers to consider launching trials into temporary concussion substitutes to better protect players who sustain head injuries.

In December the game’s rule-making body Ifab gave the go-ahead for trials of permanent concussion substitutes following which the Premier League and Women’s Super League introduced the system in February.

According to the leagues’ protocol, team doctors make an assessment of the player who sustains a head injury and, if the player shows clear symptoms, they will be substituted and prevented from returning to the field.

But concerns have been raised after the West Ham defender Issa Diop and the Sheffield United defender George Baldock were allowed to continue playing after sustaining head injuries in recent matches.

PFA and Fifpro, in a letter to Ifab on Thursday, said temporary substitutes, which would allow a player to be replaced while the doctor examines them but return if deemed fit to continue, better protects player health and reduces pressure on medical staff to make snap decisions.

“Since the beginning of Ifab’s permanent concussion substitute trial, we have seen several incidents where the new laws of the game have fallen short of their objective and jeopardised player safety,” the letter stated.

“We ask for the existing trial to be extended in order to test in parallel temporary concussion substitutions. In England … we are aware of two incidents where a temporary option would have better protected players. These cases underline our concern that permanent subs do not give medical teams appropriate environment to assess a player.”

The letter also made reference to a poll of 96 professional club doctors from the Belgian, English and French leagues, which found 83% believe the use of temporary concussion substitutions should form a part of future protocol.

Last month the head injury specialist Willie Stewart described the trial of permanent concussion substitutes as a “shambles”, and the system was also criticised by the former Newcastle striker Alan Shearer.