England’s soccer officials are doing more to protect their biggest assets than they have in the past.
On Tuesday, the Football Association introduced new rules governing how teams should treat players who are suspected of having suffered concussions or other head injuries during games in the Premier League and lower divisions in the 2014-15 season, according to Sky Sports.
Under the new guidelines, players now must leave the field in the event of “confirmed or suspected period of loss of consciousness.” The player will be examined by their club’s doctor, who will make the final decision whether he or she can continue competing. The manager or assistant coaches no longer will decide whether a player returns to action.
Home teams in Premier League games also must now must provide a “tunnel doctor” on gamedays. This third doctor will monitor support of each team’s doctor by watching the game on television (from the tunnel), looking for potential concussions or head injuries and supporting the club doctors’ treatment efforts.
The FA also will work with the Premier League, Football League, Professional Footballers’ Association and League Managers’ Association to launch an awareness campaign to educate players on the dangers of head injuries.
Last season, Tottenham came under intense criticism after goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was knocked out cold, but was then allowed to return to the game. Later in November, Nejmanja Vidic and Wojciech Szczesny suffered head injuries during an Arsenal-Manchester United game. The concussion storm reemerged this summer at the 2014 FIFA World Cup when Uruguay defender Alvaro Pereira was knocked out during his team’s win over England but continued playing after regaining consciousness.
The governing bodies of English soccer took this opportunity to act responsibly, tighten their rules and protect players’ welfare in these instances. It’s better that they’ve done this now than after it’s already too late.