Trials of concussion substitutes could be introduced next season

Concussion substitutes could be trialled next season after the game’s law-making body agreed to set up an expert group to look at the best way for football to manage head injuries.

Medical specialists and former players will be appointed to the group and, if the panel proposes solutions for assessing and managing concussion during a game to the International Football Association Board’s annual general meeting in February, trials could take place in competitions around the world during the 2020-21 campaign.

Temporary substitutes have been suggested as one solution, allowing medical staff to conduct a 10-minute assessment on the player suspected of having a concussion and then deciding whether the temporary substitute should remain on the field or go back off.

IFAB general secretary Lukas Brud told the PA news agency: “We don’t want to rush into a decision.

“We have a clear idea on the process, but the outcome is difficult to anticipate, but we definitely want solutions in place.”

Arsene Wenger, FIFA’s new chief of global football development, told Sky Sports News: “The health and safety of the players is the priority.

“We will try to do what is requested to protect the players, of course, and that decision will be made very soon.”

A statement from IFAB said that the members of the group would be announced in due course.

Arsene Wenger insists concussion is a subject football must take seriously
Arsene Wenger insists concussion is a subject football must take seriously

The group could then put proposals to the IFAB’s annual general meeting in Belfast in February.

Professor Jon Patricios, a specialist in concussion in sport, told PA in October that the 10-minute evaluation period was the “optimal” way to treat suspected.

Prof Patricios, who had presented to the IFAB panels earlier that month, said: “The conclusion in my presentation was that in several consensus meetings throughout the world a 10-minute period is felt to be optimal for evaluating the player and that the evaluation should take place off the field.

“My view is that no system is perfect – a concussion could evolve over two days and you could miss it in a half-hour evaluation, but you have got to very carefully balance the priority of player welfare with disruption to the game and the fabric of the game, and the potential manipulation of those rules.

“So it’s a balancing act, but we feel that having gone through an evaluation in reasonably experienced hands, 10 minutes is a fair amount of time to give a clinician to make a decision.”