A charity has launched a blistering attack on sporting bodies after yet another professional footballer was allowed to play on after suffering a significant head injury.
It comes after Tottenham’s Jan Vertonghen clashed heads with a teammate and was allowed to carry on before being forced off through injury in a Champions League match on Tuesday.
According to match officials, the referee had asked Tottenham’s team doctor for assurance before allowing Mr Vertonghen back on the pitch, although the defender was clearly not in a fit state to carry on.
Headway, the brain injury charity, says this latest event follows a long line of irresponsible and potentially life-threating decisions in football, as well as in other sports.
The charity added that it is questioning sporting bodies’ commitment to tackle the issue of concussion in football.
The effects of concussion can vary from minor to severe, and are most often accompanied by headaches, problems with concentration, memory, balance and coordination. If left unchecked, the most serious knocks to the head can result in permanent brain damage or even death.
Luke Griggs, spokesperson for Headway, said: “It is hugely disappointing that we are once again talking about concussion rather than the game itself.
“Concussion is notoriously difficult to diagnose. The symptoms may be hidden and require the individual to be honest about how they’re feeling, while they can also be delayed in their presentation.
“Assessing a player for three minutes – or even five, as was the case with Jan Vertonghen – does not allow for medical staff to make a reliable diagnosis, particularly when this is conducted on the pitch under the gaze of tens of thousands of fans eager for the game to resume.”
Headway has called on sporting bodies again to introduce temporary concussion substitutions that would allow for longer off-pitch assessments to be conducted.
“In addition, independent doctors with expertise in concussion and head injuries should make the ultimate decision as to whether or not a player is fit to continue,” added Mr Griggs.
“Not every head injury will result in a concussion. But allowing players to continue while showing clear signs of discomfort following a head injury is contrary to the ‘if in doubt, sit it out’ principle at the heart of all effective concussion protocols.”