Injuries force PFA to assess player safety

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The Independent Football

Injuries to goalkeepers this season have led the Professional Footballers' Association to investigate the efficiency of the emergency services at stadiums.

The Fulham goalkeeper Antti Niemi was carried off on a stretcher after a horrific-looking fall on his head against Watford on New Year's Day, 11 weeks after Chelsea's Petr Cech suffered a fractured skull against Reading.

Shay Given had a tear in his bowel following a challenge in Newcastle United's match at West Ham United, prompting surgeons to compare the impact of the injury to that of a car crash.

Niemi has been released from hospital and doctors have cleared him of spinal cord or column injury, but the incident highlighted the importance of having the emergency services ready for players.

"We've had a number of serious injuries, particularly to goalkeepers, and it highlights the precariousness of the profession," said the PFA chief executive, Gordon Taylor. "We've had discussions with the Premier League on making sure that all immediate possible medical facilities are at hand, particularly with ambulances to get them to hospital as quickly as possible.

"That is something that we're wanting to make sure of and are checking up on. While there needs to be ambulance facilities for spectators, we're looking to make sure that everything is in place for a quick and speedy action when emergency treatment is needed."

The Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho raised concerns over the treatment Cech received at the Madejski Stadium, in a match in which the reserve goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini also suffered concussion.

But the former England goalkeeper Peter Shilton believes nothing can prevent freak injuries occurring. Shilton said: "I was lucky enough not to have any serious injuries but you are bound to have the odd occasion when players fall awkwardly. Technique can help but there are occasions when you can't do anything about it. With Petr Cech's injury, he came out correctly - it was just unfortunate he got caught."

Shilton welcomes extra protection from referees for goalkeepers, but does not want to see free-kicks awarded for fair challenges.

Niemi is highly unlikely to play in the FA Cup third-round match with Leicester on Saturday but the Finland international may not be out for as long as had been feared. A Fulham statement said: "Antti has been released from hospital and is not in a neck brace. But he is being reviewed by the Fulham medical team and will undergo further investigations over the next few days, after which a full prognosis will be issued."

Chris Coleman, the Fulham manager, will wait for the results before giving a date for his return.

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