February 4, 2020
English football is preparing to take the lead in the expected new trials next season for concussion substitutes.
The Premier League, the Football Association and football’s rule-makers, the International Football Association Board, have been discussing a system that would allow teams to temporarily replace a player during a 10-minute HIA window.
Although this has been successfully implemented in other sports, IFAB wants first to see how that would work in practice and both the Premier League and FA are open to trials that would start next season.
Both organisations have been privately lobbying for improved concussion protocols and a decision will be made by the IFAB board later this month. Uefa and Fifa are also understood to support the change.
It represents a shift since the 2018 World Cup in Russia when Fifa raised concerns that players or managers could seek to exploit concussion substitutes for their own tactical advantage.
There have since been a series of worrying incidents when players have continued in matches following significant head impacts and apparent signs of a potential concussion.
Concern over the often very brief on-field checks further intensified following research last year by the University of Glasgow which showed that former professional footballers are 3.5 times more likely to die of neurodegenerative disease.
Although the precise cause of this increased risk could not be identified, it is well established that head traumas increase the possibility of brain disease. The football authorities have been warned that they could leave themselves open to legal action if they do not take reasonable precautionary measures and the introduction of concussion substitutes is only one element of change that is being advocated.
Restrictions on repetitive heading in training and by young children during matches and training are being considered by the FA’s research taskforce. The Scottish FA has been finalising its consultations and is imminently expected to recommend restrictions on heading in children’s football.