‘It’s a no-brainer’ - Bruce in favour of concussion substitutions in football
Neurologist Dr Carl Bruce says that substitutions in the event of concussion-related injuries would be beneficial to football to protect the health of players.
His comments are in the context of the International Football Association Board’s (IFAB) recommendation of trials for concussion substitutions starting in January for competitions that are interested in participating. The recommendation comes from the Concussion Experts Group (CEG) after their meeting on October 21, which included team doctors, medical concussion experts, and Laws of the Game experts.
Bruce says that he agrees with such a framework to be implemented in football to minimise long-term effects of such injuries.
“Even what we consider to be minor concussions, they have a cumulative effect, and so in the neurosurgical committee, we have come to a conclusion that once you have a concussion, you should no longer be allowed to play that day. Because when you play having had a concussion, your brain is more vulnerable to a second concussion,” Bruce told The Gleaner.
He says that athletes run the risk of cerebral (brain) swelling, or second impact syndrome, which occurs when the symptoms of an earlier concussion have not yet subsided. Additionally, he says that the culture of just ‘getting on with the game’ with such injuries can no longer be adopted.
“[We] would have grown up with players telling you to ‘Get up, shake it off, let’s go!’,” he said. “But if you would have seen what happened in the NFL in the United States, and in boxing, the brain is most vulnerable at that time. Therefore, the concussion substitution would be highly recommended.”
IFAB said on October 21 that although it is mindful of the limitations of the Laws of the Game regarding substitutions, “applying an ‘if in doubt, take them out’ philosophy would be the best solution to safeguard the health of football players.”
The current laws allow for a maximum of three changes per game. However, that quota has been temporarily increased to five to accommodate congested schedules caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Most leagues and competitions have incorporated the measure.
Bruce says that the proposed trials are necessary to acquire the necessary data to make informed and appropriate recommendations.
“You always want to see how teams respond to it,” Bruce said. “You want to see whether or not people are following the protocols. You want to see how the players who were substituted are doing. I think having a pilot trial is always good because you learn from it and refine the rules, so to speak.”
Jamaica Football Federation General Secretary Dalton Wint said that he welcomes any measure that will ensure the safety of players.
“Anything that can help to safeguard players is something that I fully support and endorse,” Wint said.
IFAB says that the proposal will be reviewed during their Annual Business Meeting in December “so that appropriate decisions can be taken”.