MANCHESTER England (Reuters) - Referees will be instructed to stop a match immediately for three minutes when a player is suspected of being concussed, if a proposal from FIFA’s chief medical officer is accepted.
Michel D’Hooghe, the chairman of FIFA’s medical committee and a UEFA executive committee member, told delegates at the Soccerex Global Convention on Tuesday that he will put his proposal before the European governing body at their executive committee meeting on Sept.18 and to FIFA’s executive on Sept.25.
Although cases of concussion are relatively rare in soccer, D’Hooghe said there were five suspected cases at the Brazil World Cup.
There have also been some high profile incidents that have raised concerns at FIFA such as when France international goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was concussed playing for his club Tottenham Hotspur against Everton last year.
“If there is a suspected concussion we will ask the referee to stop the game for three minutes. The referee will only allow the player to continue playing with the green light of the team doctor — nobody else,” the Belgian said.
D’Hooghe told reporters that as this proposal does not constitute a change in the laws of the game, but just in the rules of competition, it could come into force as early as Oct. 1.
If approved, it would apply initially to matches in World Cup qualifying games, European Championship qualifiers, Champions League and Europa League matches, but not at the domestic level.
“FIFA issued our first paper on concussion in 2003 and we have organized four concussion meetings, but it is true we have no strict rules, but we will have them if UEFA and FIFA approve it, and why not from October 1?” D’Hooghe said.
“There are sports like American Football where they have 200 concussions a year and in Australian Football they have 120 a year.
“In soccer we have a concussion case once in 20 games so it is not frequent, but that does not mean it is not a serious problem.
“Now the medical committee is proposing that where there is a suspected concussion the referee must stop the game for three minutes which will give the team doctor the chance to evaluate medically the condition of the player.
“Of course if he is unconscious it is not difficult, but if he is not, it gives the doctor the chance to talk to him and give him a brief neurological examination and then take a decision.
“The referee can only allow the player to continue with the green light of the team doctor.
“It will not be the decision of the coach or the player himself. After having a concussion the player is not able to judge his own situation.”
In Lloris’s case, Tottenham’s then manager Andre Villas-Boas allowed the goalkeeper to play on after he suffered concussion following an accidental collision with Everton striker Romelu Lukaku last November.
“This was certainly one of the cases we brought into the discussion with the doctors, as well as World Cup cases and these cases played a part in making us want to change from ‘medical guidance advice’ to the strict medical rules I am proposing,” D’Hooghe added.
Lawsuits are pending in the United States regarding sports-related concussion. The National Football League has its own website dedicated to concussion with the NFL setting aside hundreds of millions of dollars for compensation claims.
Editing by Toby Davis