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FIFA denies EPL request for temporary substitutes



FIFA have been urged by concussion experts to allow the Premier League undergo trials of rugby-style temporary substitutes which would permit players to return to action after successfully passing a head-injury assessment (HIA).

  The issue of concussion substitutes was further brought into the spotlight on Friday when Southampton defender, Jan Bednarek was desperate to carry on playing after a heavy fall on his neck – claiming he was fine – despite his team’s doctors insisting it wasn’t safe.

  The current protocol is that teams are allowed an extra substitute if someone has to be replaced due to concussion but the player in question is not allowed to return after going off even if they have passed an assessment.

  Professor James Calder – head of the government’s expert panel on concussion in sport – claimed it would be ‘perfectly reasonable’ for the top flight to undergo various different trials to measure their effectiveness.

  The expert panel is also expected to reveal new guidelines for sport at grassroots level this week, with it, anticipated people will be urged not to return to action for three weeks from when they suffered a concussion.

  At the elite level, Ligue 1, the MLS and the Premier League recently requested that FIFA allow them to launch a trial where players could return to the pitch after a ten-minute HIA – something that is used in both codes of rugby.

  This was rejected by FIFA who were only in favour of continuing with the current protocol of permanent concussion substitutes.

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  A disappointed Calder told The Times: ‘The Premier League has suggested that there are two assessments and that you try both systems and see what happens, and that would seem a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

  ‘I think it would give some answers and information. Being a scientist, I think that the best approach would be to try both and see which one works better.’

  For FIFA, they are adamant permanent substitutes are safer but there have been several concerns in recent years that team doctors are less inclined to remove key players if they have no chance of returning to the field.

  This happened during the World Cup, when Iran’s goalkeeper, Alireza Beiranvand was allowed to continue against England despite clearly being impacted by an extremely nasty clash of heads with one of his defenders – before he eventually had to come off several minutes later as he was unable to continue.

  The Premier League claimed since rugby union brought in the HIA protocol nine years ago, the number of players with concussion who continued following an assessment after suffering a head impact reduced from 56 per cent to eight per cent. In the NFL this was even lower at two per cent.

  Conversely, in France’s top two leagues, research found 53 per cent of those who were later diagnosed to have a concussion didn’t leave the pitch after a head impact.

  FIFA’s claim their opposition to temporary substitutes is backed by medical specialists and believe their position is right given the amount of concussions in elite football is lower than those in rugby.

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