BELFAST (Reuters) - Football’s rule-making body IFAB is being urged by the players’ union to introduce a 10-minute concussion evaluation period, with temporary substitutes, to allow players to receive better care for head injuries.
But FIFA president Gianni Infantino said he preferred to allow permanent extra substitutes for concussions and would like to see trials held before any new rule is brought in.
The issue of how to best handle concussions is on the agenda for the International FA Board’s annual general meeting on Saturday.
IFAB set up a panel of experts to look at the issue and one proposal the group discussed was for substitutions for concussions not to count against the total of three currently allowed for each team in a 90-minute game, an idea Infantino said he leaned towards.
But FIFPRO, the international players’ union, is pushing for a wider change where a player can be taken to the dressing room for a 10-minute evaluation, rather than the current three-minute sideline check, with a temporary substitute taking their place.
FIFPRO says the 10-minute rule would allow evaluation to be carried out without rushing the process and added that it it also wants the tests to have an independent doctor involved.
“This is a subject that needs to be discussed more and trialled as well. Personally I believe more in permanent than temporary. That’s my personal view,” said Infantino, the head of soccer’s world governing body.
“I think maybe it’s important there are trials before next season. We have the Olympic Games for example where we could, as FIFA, trial something like that and then see what happens.”
Erin Clout, who played in Australia’s women’s league and now works for Australia’s Professional Footballers Association, had her career ended early by concussion and believes better immediate evaluation would have helped her significantly.
“It could have changed my life,” said Clout, who said she was still suffering from dizziness, headaches and heavy fatigue following a concussion sustained during a match in August 2019.
Clout said nobody assessed whether she showed symptoms of a concussion after the ball hit her head from close range in the 40th minute. She played on for the rest of the match.
“It is vital that there is enough time in a dressing room for medical staff to make a thorough assessment if a player has a concussion, and for players to honestly evaluate how they feel,” added Clout.
“It is really difficult to make that call when you are on the pitch surrounded by people telling you to continue.”
Clout said her problems from concussion have not gone away and have affected her daily life.
“This goes beyond football. This is about life, about being able to enjoy relationships with family and friends, about being able to work or play sports,” said Clout.
Former United States striker Taylor Twellman, who has been campaigning on the issue for several years through his ‘Think Taylor’ organisation, said he supported the FIFPRO plan.
“I’m behind 10-minute subs and have helped it get to this point,” Twellman told Reuters.
“Every neurologist and other expert says 10 minutes allows them and the athlete to make the most educated decision.”
Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Toby Davis and Ken Ferris