In Depth

Head injuries and concussion: ‘how many warnings does football need?’

Wolves striker Raul Jiménez suffered a fractured skull after clash with Arsenal’s David Luiz

Football’s handling of head injuries and concussion is in the spotlight after Raul Jiménez and David Luiz suffered injuries in a Premier League match on Sunday. 

Wolves striker Jiménez sustained a fractured skull after a clash of heads with Luiz in the first half at the Emirates Stadium. 

After being treated on the pitch and given oxygen Mexican forward Jiménez was taken to hospital where he underwent surgery. In a statement on Twitter he thanked fans and fellow players for their messages of support and said he hoped to “return to the pitch soon”. 

By contrast, Arsenal defender Luiz came back on to the pitch. Despite “blood seeping from his head bandage”, the Brazilian was allowed to carry on after Arsenal followed concussion protocols, BBC Sport reports. 

Gunners boss Mikel Arteta told arsenal.com: “It was the first thing that I asked but the doctor did all the protocols, all the testing. David never lost consciousness, he was completely fine, he was just not comfortable heading the ball.”

‘Lagging behind’

The collision between Luiz and Jiménez has opened up the debate on concussions in football - just weeks after dementia was a major talking point.  

As a sport football is “lagging behind both rugby codes as well cricket, the NFL and horse racing when it comes to head impacts”, says The Guardian’s Sean Ingle.

“For too long football has played tiki-taka with the issue of concussion, rather than tackling it head on,” Ingle wrote. “It has been passed around from committee to committee, governing body to governing body, without the authorities facing up to its pernicious threat. Perhaps the recent deaths of Jack Charlton and Nobby Stiles will sharpen the focus.”

The Daily Express reports that footballers from around the world fear authorities are “waiting for yet another tragedy to happen before taking proper action against the dangers of concussion”.

Former Hull City player Ryan Mason was forced to retire at the age of 26 after fracturing his skull in a match against Chelsea in 2017. Speaking to Sky Sports he questioned “what is it going to take for us to take these types of challenges and injuries seriously”.

On Match of the Day 2 former England striker Alan Shearer added: “We are talking about life and death. Football needs to get real, it needs to wake up, it needs to get serious. Not next year, next month, now. It is not acceptable, it has been going too far too long.”

Calls for concussion subs 

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp believes it “makes sense” for football to introduce concussion substitutes. Meanwhile, Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson, who himself suffered a head injury in 2017, said: “When there is a blow to the head there should be a substitution, whether the player can continue or not. You could be feeling OK but after you could feel the consequences.”

Headway, the brain injury charity, has expressed “anger and disappointment” at football’s continued failings to protect its players from concussion.

In a statement Luke Griggs, deputy chief executive at Headway, said: “Only last week we strongly criticised the International Football Association Board (IFAB) for its continued procrastination in introducing concussion substitutes into the sport. 

“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. 

“Something is not right. This cannot be allowed to continue. How many warnings does football need?”

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