LONDON — Concussion substitutions could be trialed in English soccer next season after proposals were presented to the game’s lawmakers.
The Premier League has given an initial suggestion to the rule-making International Football Association Board proposing that the current three-minute period to assess players for concussion would be used to determine if a "head injury replacement" is required.
A framework from the league’s medical advisor seen by The Associated Press said that if there are no immediate signs of concussion then the player would continue to be observed while back in action. If clearer concussion symptoms become evident, then the player can be replaced by a special substitution beyond the three changes currently allowed.
The English Football Association prefers allowing players to be replaced at least temporarily for 10 minutes to allow a fuller concussion assessment, a person with knowledge of their thinking told the AP. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the FA’s thinking ahead of the annual meeting of IFAB on Feb. 29 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
The FA along with the other British federations hold half of the eight seats on the IFAB board, with international governing body FIFA controlling the other four votes to change laws.
The international players’ union shares the view of the English FA that temporary substitutes should be considered.
"We welcome discussions by football stakeholders with a view to safeguarding players who suffer a concussion," FIFPRO general secretary Jonas Baer-Hoffmann said. "FIFPRO strongly believes doctors must be given enough time and space to assess a player with a suspected concussion in order to enable them to make the correct decision on whether he or she can stay on the pitch. In our view, this means they must be provided with significantly more than three minutes."
The English FA has also been exploring advice that youngsters should restrict heading the ball in training sessions.
A Scottish study published last year put a fresh focus on the need for footballing authorities to address the potential long-term impact on health of head injuries.
Researchers from the University of Glasgow found former professional players in Scotland were less likely to die of common causes such as heart disease and cancer compared with the general population but more likely to die from dementia. Researchers compared the causes of death of 7,676 Scottish men who played soccer with 23,000 similar men from the general population born between 1900 and 1976. Over a median of 18 years of study, 1,180 players and 3,807 of the others died. The players had a lower risk of death from any cause until age 70.
However, they had a 3.5 times higher rate of death from neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. In absolute terms, that risk remained relatively small — 1.7% among former players and 0.5% for the comparison group.