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21st Feb 2022

PFA claim concussion rules are not ‘prioritising player safety’ after Koch incident

Callum Boyle

The PFA also called for temporary substitutions to be reintroduced

The Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) have released a statement condemning the current rules surrounding head injuries and insisted that they are not ‘prioritising player safety.’

Leeds United’s Robin Koch suffered a head injury during their defeat against Manchester United on Sunday but, after being assessed, was allowed to continue before being substituted 15 minutes later.

During his post-match conference, Leeds boss Marcelo Bielsa claimed he took off the defender due to the cut in his head and not through any fears of concussion.

“He had a cut in his head and what excludes him is the cut,” he told Leeds Live.

“If the cut is the most significant thing then the knock he received, I acted in accordance to that.”

But many were left shocked by the decision to allow Koch to play on and the PFA condemned Leeds’ medical staff for allowing the 25-year-old to stay on the pitch and called for the reintroduction of temporary substitutions to compensate for injuries to the head.

They tweeted: “The injury to Leeds United’s Robin Koch demonstrates again that the current concussion protocols within football are failing to prioritise player safety.

“The ‘if in doubt, sit them out’ protocol is not being applied consistently within the pressurised environment of elite competitive football.

“We see frequent incidents of players returning to play with a potential brain injury, only to be removed shortly afterwards once symptoms visibly worsen.

“As the representative voice of players in England, we have been clear to @TheIFAB that we want to see the introduction of temporary concussion substitutes.

“Temporary concussion substitutes will allow medical teams additional time and an appropriate environment to make an initial assessment.

“Introducing temporary substitutes would allow a match to restart with neither side numerically disadvantaged, reducing pressure on players and medical teams to make quick decisions on whether an injured player continues.

“Put simply, the current rules set by @TheIFAB are not working, and players are being put at risk.”

Temporary substitutions enable teams to replace a player and allow the medical team to thoroughly examine him and determine if they are suffering from any symptoms of concussion and if they are fit to continue.

However this rule has yet to be implemented and there are still growing fears at the number of high-profile head injury incidents that have continuously happened in games.

During an interview with JOE last year Headway, a charity which works to improve the lives of people after they suffer brain injuries, raised their own concerns about football’s failure to properly address the issue of head injuries in football.

Luke Griggs, Deputy Chief Executive at Headway said: “At the time we were very strong in our words about the failure to protect players and that something had to change.

“We believed that was the opportunity for football to move with the times, and yet here we are, seven years later – seven years – and nothing has changed when it comes to football and concussion. It’s simply unacceptable.

We’ve had a few high-profile incidents and you have to ask how many more risks does football need to take?

“You can’t just run off a brain injury and you can’t see the damage done behind the skull. You have to trust the experts and it must be taken out of the players’ hands.

“We know they’re intrinsically competitive – you have to be to get to that level – and they want to stay on the pitch so won’t always be honest about whether they are feeling the effects of concussion.”

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