Concussions in soccer have been a problem and the sport is trying to catch up. After it was discovered that heading the ball or head injuries from playing likely caused a rise of dementia and Alzheimer’s among the England 1966 World Cup winning team, there became a renewed focus in England to try and better handle the situation for current and future generations.
Rules such as banning heading for kids and having the referee immediately stop play when it appears someone has a head injury have been a thing in recent years but now it appears England will go even further in their top men’s and women’s league.
It’s been revealed that the Premier League and the Women’s Super League will trial concussion subs starting February 6. What this means is on top of the three regular subs, teams can make two additional permanent subs on top of the three if the player appears to have suffered a head injury. If a team uses an additional sub, the opposing team also gets an additional sub to keep things equal.
The trial is going to start on February 6 with Aston Villa-Arsenal and go to the end of the 2020-21 season with an option to use it all next season. Concussion subs will also be available for the men’s FA Cup, WSL, and Women’s Championship. FIFA is expected to do something similar at February’s Club World Cup but will only have one concussion sub.
Having concussion subs will make less of an impact on the game if teams need to make a sub. The way the game is played, if someone is injured after a team uses their three subs, they must play down a player for the rest of the game. That’s not ideal and usually unless you literally cannot walk, you’re still out there because that’s better than nothing. Someone with a concussion who remains in the game can physically be out there but mentally shouldn’t be mentally because they are at risk of further injury. The hope is that with five potential subs, and two of them being specific for those with concussions, a team doesn’t need to be in a situation where they’re playing a likely concussed player just to keep things 11v11.
Obviously, this situation isn’t perfect but it’s progress. Yes, like any rule, it can be exploited. It’s rare but sometimes a player puts their hands on their head to simulate a head injury so the ref can stop play and potentially stop an attack by the opposing team. Obviously, if a team is out of subs and a player is about to be subbed out, they could easily claim a head injury in order to get an additional sub. That can happen but it shouldn’t keep any league from enacting rules like this to better protect the players. That’s the ultimate endgame and now that the Premier League took the first step to make the game safer, maybe other leagues will follow suit.
[BBC/Photo: Premier League]