This week, probably like most people, I was watching the Tottenham vs Ajax match and was concerned after seeing how the medical teams dealt with the clash of heads between Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld.
Vertonghen, in my eyes, had obviously suffered a head injury. He was on the ground receiving treatment for around 5 minutes and it seemed that the medical staff just wiped the blood off and insisted that he was okay to carry on. After being released back onto the pitch it quickly became apparent that he wasn’t okay, appearing to stagger and then needing to be helped off the pitch with the player later stating that he had fainted.
The FA and world governing bodies of football need to come together and take head injury more seriously and maybe take some lessons from other sports. Referees, players, managers and medical teams have immense pressure on them to get the best 11 players on the pitch. There are 50,000 fans wanting Vertonghen to continue playing and for the game to continue. Maybe it’s time that football starts to introduce temporary concussion substitutes that would allow for longer off-pitch assessments to be conducted; players would be able to give an honest assessment of how they felt and medical teams and coaching staff the ability to assess the players readiness without being at a disadvantage on the pitch.
It could also be worth taking the decision out of the teams’ hands. Having an independent concussion expert who makes the final say would make the decision of protecting players a lot simpler – the player comes off if they have a head injury. Simple. There’s no ulterior motive, there’s no we’ll get by. The players’ welfare is put first.
That’s not to say clubs are disregarding the players’ welfare, far from it, but I do think they need a helping hand – they need more time and more expertise to help guide the decisions they make.
Ultimately, head injury protocols in football are failing players and unless the governing bodies of football started to help clubs we will continue to see cases of head injuries during matches be mistreated and players welfare at risk.