Football bodies “turning a blind eye” to brain injury epidemic

A charity has backed MP’s calls for better concussion protocols in sports after criticising sporting organisations for not doing enough to protect athletes.

Headway, the brain injury charity, argue that some sports, such as football, are still a long way off from providing players with the safety they require.

It follows the call of politicians Chris Bryant and Tom Watson, who say concussion management in sport is inadequate at both the professional and amateur level.

They added that some sporting bodies are “turning a blind eye” to the brain injury epidemic and its serious consequences – and are now urging the Government “to do something about it”.

Football in particular has been of high concern in recent months after a team of scientists discovered that ‘heading’ the ball from a very early age could lead to the brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

It led to a call to restrict heading in the professional game and to ban it for those under the age of 18.

Football bodies have also been criticised for not taking head injury seriously.

Speaking to the BBC, Mr Bryant said: “There is lots of evidence at the last World Cup that they didn’t abide by their own rules. It is still the team’s own doctor who’s deciding whether somebody should come off the field. It should be, like rugby, an independent person who’s making the decision on medical evidence rather than the needs of the team.”

Peter McCabe, Chief Executive of Headway, added: “Sport has clear benefits for participants and it is important we encourage people to take part. However, elite-level sport has to set a consistent example for the millions of youngsters around the world who take their lead from their idols.

“A number of sports, especially rugby, have made progress on concussion and its management, but there is still much more that needs to be done.

“Protocols are can only be effective if they are followed, and be seen to be followed. Sadly, as this year’s World Cup shows, this is still not the case.”