Add the English Premier League to the ever-growing list of professional sports leagues to enact stricter policies on concussion treatment and prevention.
Ben Burrows of the Mirror reported Premier League clubs were informed Tuesday that the final say on a player's re-entry to a match now falls on team physicians. Players who are determined to have lost consciousness at any point are also now barred from staying in that match.
"If there has been a confirmed or suspected period of loss of consciousness, the player must be removed from the field of play, and not be allowed to return," the Football Association rule states, per Burrows.
International football has come under increased scrutiny of late due to what some deem as flip treatment of the concussion issue. FIFPro, the world players' union, called for more stringent policies and an investigation into the events that led to Uruguayan star Alvaro Pereira being kept in a World Cup match despite exhibiting concussion-like symptoms.
"Football is awash with incidents in which players suffer potentially concussive blows to the head and stay on the pitch," FIFPro wrote. "In Pereira's case, he demanded to play on while overruling advice from Uruguay's team physician for him to be immediately substituted."
Eric Chemi of Bloomberg Businessweek noted concussion rates are even high at the youth levels of the sport, with girls soccer being the second-most dangerous among high school athletes, ranking behind only American football. The NFL and NCAA have both found themselves subject to liability lawsuits from former players, some of whom claim gross negligence and a failure to elucidate the potential long-term damages of concussions.
George Atallah of the NFLPA complimented the move from the FA:
While international football has not come under as much scrutiny, the Premier League and other organizations were long overdue for changes. Burrows highlighted an incident from last season in which then-Tottenham coach Andre Villas-Boas allowed Hugo Lloris to return to the pitch after taking a knee to the head from Everton's Romelu Lukaku. Lloris lost consciousness in the collision.
That incident saw Professional Footballers’ Association to criticize Tottenham's handling of the situation and demand a rule be put in place to prevent similar action in the future.
"It is important to take the pressure off the players, club medical staff, and the manager—removing the need for them to make a very difficult decision," PFA deputy chief executive John Bramhall said in a statement. "If anyone suffers a severe trauma to the head and loses consciousness, then they should be required to leave the field of play automatically."
These new rules ensure Bramhall's desire has been put into place. The rules not only allow for a video review of an injury-causing play but also call for all Premier League clubs to hire a second physician—called a "tunnel doctor" by Burrows—to consult with the standard team doctor.
Seeing the new policy in practice will be its true test. But for now it's promising to see the Premier League and Football Association taking this step to help better ensure player safety.
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