By Ken Reed

Leaders from the Professional Footballers’ Association, Jeff Astle Foundation, the Concussion Legacy Foundation and brain injury association Headway have signed an open letter urging the International Football Association Board (IFAB) to allow temporary concussion substitutions in soccer games so players who may have been concussed during play can be properly evaluated by medical professionals on the sideline.

“We need to do everything we can to support medical professionals to make the best decisions for player safety, that means allowing them the time and space to conduct robust clinical assessments away from the field of play,” said Concussion Legacy Foundation UK executive director, Dr. Adam White. “Temporary concussion substitutions are the only way that can happen.”

While concussions are often the focus when it comes to brain injuries in sports, the long-term health risks to the brain from playing soccer go beyond concussions. Research indicates that repetitive sub-concussive blows to the head (like those that occur while heading the ball over and over during games and practices) can also lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

A FIELD study published in 2019 found soccer players were three and a half times more likely to die from a neurodegenerative disease than an age-matched member of the general population. The FIELD study was conducted by Dr. Willie Stewart, who also signed the letter to IFAB.

Headway chief executive Peter McCabe said: “It is vital that we better protect footballers from the dangers of continuing to play after sustaining a concussion – particularly those playing at grass-roots level. The introduction of temporary concussion substitutes should have happened years ago and any further delays are simply unacceptable.”

Alas, while IFAB considered implementing temporary concussion substitutes at its meeting earlier this week, they ultimately deemed further study was needed before making that move.

As McCabe said, that’s simply unacceptable.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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