Football Association announce new guidelines on Premier League concussions

The FA and Premier League have unveiled new rules designed to prevent concussed players from returning to the field

Club doctors will have the ultimate decision over whether a player can return to the field following a head injury under new concussion guidelines in place for the upcoming Premier League season.

The FA and Premier League faced a barrage of criticism last season after the Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was allowed to return to play, despite having been knocked unconscious by Romelu Lukaku's knee.

A few weeks before, Spurs winger Andros Townsend had also been allowed to play on after he fell head-first over the White Hart Lane advertising hoardings and had to be given oxygen.

Under the new guidelines, players will now be forced off the field of play and prevented from returning at the ruling of a doctor or medical practitioner if there has been a "confirmed or suspected period of loss of consciousness."

FIFA faced criticism after Alvaro Pereira's World Cup KO

In addition to making the doctor's say final, the Premier League has announced that "tunnel doctors" will be mandatory for all league games. They will be present to aid the club doctors in recognising the signs of concussion.

From the start of the new season, all Premier League staff will have to carry a Concussion Recognition Tool.

Perhaps the most significant move is the recommendation of annual baseline testing. In American football and rugby union, players undergo a series of tests prior to the start of each season designed to test the sharpness of their mental faculties. Concussed players are then tested again, to check if their brain is functioning at the same level as before the injury.

"Player safety is paramount in all sports and the Premier League has a strong track record of introducing new medical rules and provisions as top-level football has evolved and new challenges emerged," Premier League Director of Football, Mike Foster said.

"Premier League clubs have already addressed a number of recommendations by making changes to the Premier League Rule Book and we recognise that, with other stakeholders, we have a wider role to play in making all participants in the game aware of the signs of concussion and the importance of following the return to play guidelines."

Hugo Lloris was allowed to play on but subsequently missed games with concussion

These tightened rules are designed to make it harder for the affected player and his manager to make the decision as to his return to the action.

As Andre Villas-Boas showed, the manager will invariably wish to see his charge return - whilst the athlete has an in-built sense of courage that itself invariably overrides any care for his long-term health.

"Managers, players and clubs need to understand the risks associated with head injuries," said Dr. Ian Beasley, chairman of The FA's medical committee. 
 

"The advice of medical professionals is key in this area, and whilst we have developed processes to deal with many types of injury this is an area that has perhaps needed some more scrutiny."

 

The issue of treatment of concussion in football is not just a Premier League concern. FIFA faced calls for change during the World Cup as first Alvaro Pereira and later Javier Mascherano were allowed to play on despite receiving apparently concussive blows to the head.

The Uruguay defender admitted that the "lights went out" after Raheem Sterling's knee collided with the side of his head - yet he forced himself back onto the field and was permitted to continue.

In the aftermath of the incident, the world players' union accused FIFA of negligence regarding Pereira's safety.

It urged FIFA “to conduct a thorough investigation into its own competition concussion protocol which failed to protect Uruguayan footballer Álvaro Pereira” and asked for “urgent talks and immediate assurances that Fifa can guarantee the safety of the players.”

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