Concussion substitutes rule criticised after Son and Milner incidents: ‘Football’s stubbornness can no longer be tolerated’

A leading brain injury charity has questioned football’s reluctance to introduce concussion substitutes following Tuesday night’s incidents involving Son Heung-min and James Milner.

Tottenham Hotspur forward Son was forced off against Champions League opponents Marseille in the 30th minute after a collision with defender Chancel Mbemba.

Liverpool’s Milner had to be substituted early in the second half of his side’s win over Napoli after being involved in a first-half clash of heads.

Milner continued to play after receiving medical attention, but then fell off the ball in the first minute of the second half.

Both players were removed as regular substitutes as there are currently no concussion substitutes in any UEFA competition, unlike the Premier League.

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Luke Griggs, interim chief executive of brain injury charity Headway, said: “Assessing potential concussion in players remains extremely challenging for doctors.

“They are not helped by football’s ongoing and unjustified reluctance to introduce temporary concussion substitutes that would allow for extended evaluations in the quiet confines of the locker room, away from the intense atmosphere of the pitch.

“Once again, we warned football about the risk it carries with the short-term and long-term health of the players. This should concern not only elite level players who are allowed to return to the field of play potentially with a concussion, but we should all be concerned about the impact this is having on grassroots players and young players following the examples they see on their screens.

“‘If in doubt, stay a while!’ is reportedly at the heart of concussion protocols in all sports. Yet all too often we see teams fail to embrace that approach. Instead, the approach seems to be ‘let’s see how they do for the next 15 minutes’, during which time they risk worsening the effect of the initial injury.

“Football’s stubbornness to accept the clear evidence that has emerged in recent years can no longer be tolerated.

“We need the introduction of temporary concussion assistants in all competitions, but more importantly we need to see a change in the attitude of the IFAB, UEFA, FIFA when it comes to brain injuries in football.”

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UEFA trialled concussion substitutions at the 2021 European Under-21 Championship finals in Hungary and Slovenia. They also planned to use it for the under-17 and under-19 finals in the 2020-21 season, but the tournaments were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Concussion substitutions are currently an option in the Premier League and WSL. It was also trialled at the World Club Championship in Qatar last year.

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(Photo: Valerio Pennicino – UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)


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