Headway leads renewed calls for concussion substitutes after David Luiz plays on

By PA Sport Staff
·4 min read

Headway has reiterated its call for concussion substitutes to be introduced in football after the clash of heads between Raul Jimenez and David Luiz in Wolves’ victory over Arsenal.

The incident happened early in Sunday’s Premier League game and saw Wolves striker Jimenez taken to hospital with a fractured skull after receiving oxygen on the pitch.

Arsenal defender Luiz, though, was allowed to carry on playing after having his head bandaged before being substituted at half-time.

Arsenal’s David Luiz (left) returned to action with his head bandaged
Arsenal’s David Luiz (left) returned to action with his head bandaged (Julian Finney/PA)

Headway, the brain injury association, expressed its “anger and disappointment at football’s continued failings to protect its players from concussion” in a statement and said its thoughts were with Jimenez and his family.

But it was Luiz’s continued participation in the match that was the big concern for Luke Griggs, Headway’s deputy chief executive.

Griggs said: “Too often in football we see players returning to the pitch having undergone a concussion assessment only to be withdrawn a few minutes later when it is clear that they are not fit to continue.

“That is the very reason why we urgently need temporary concussion substitutes in football. You simply cannot take a risk with head injuries. One further blow to the head when concussed could have serious consequences.

“The question that has to be asked is, had the concussion substitutes rule been in place, would Luiz have been allowed to return to the field of play? Would that extra time in the treatment room have led to a different decision being made?

“The concussion protocol clearly states that ‘…anyone with a suspected concussion must be immediately removed from play’, while the sport continues to promote an ‘if in doubt, sit it out’ approach to head injuries.

“Time and time again we are seeing this rhetoric not being borne out by actions on the pitch. Something is not right. This cannot be allowed to continue. How many warnings does football need?”

Arsenal insisted the club followed all the protocols, with manager Mikel Arteta saying: “He responded really well to all of them. David wanted to continue but at half-time we decided to take him out because he wasn’t comfortable heading the ball.”

Jimenez is said by Wolves to be “comfortable” after undergoing an operation on his injury at a London hospital on Sunday night and will now begin a period of recovery.

Griggs accused the game’s law-makers, the International Football Association Board (IFAB), of “procrastination” over the issue.

The football and technical advisory panels of IFAB support the idea of trials with additional permanent substitutions as soon as possible, and proposed that the IFAB annual business meeting on December 16 should consider approving these.

The Football Association said it wanted to be involved in the trials in this season’s men’s and women’s FA Cup competitions at the earliest possible stage, while world governing body FIFA had been set to trial the new protocol at the Olympic Games football tournament in Tokyo until the event was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

In announcing its willingness to begin trials, the FA said: “Player welfare is paramount and we believe this is an important step to help support players, clubs and medical teams when identifying and managing head injuries and incidents of concussion during a game.”

Headway clearly favours the temporary substitution model, along with world players’ union FIFPRO which is also in favour of an extended assessment period of 10 minutes.

Watford striker Troy Deeney believes it should ultimately be down to the player to decide if he is able to continue.

“Things have already been taken away from the players,” he told talkSPORT.

Watford striker Troy Deeney believes players should be trusted to know if they are able to continue after a clash of heads
Watford striker Troy Deeney believes players should be trusted to know if they are able to continue after a clash of heads (Tess Derry/PA)

“You’re already told how much you can run, how much you can’t, by sports scientists. At some point there has to be an element of trust between player and doctor. As a player you know when something is not right.

“What I would say from watching David Luiz, for the next 20 minutes afterwards, he never looked shaky on his feet, his legs weren’t gone from underneath him. They followed all the protocols (and) he has ticked every box.

“Then afterwards you don’t see anything other than blood to suggest he’s in a bad way at all.”