Improving concussion management in football is the focal point of a new awareness campaign being launched by UEFA this week.
The campaign, which gets under way for the second matchday in both the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League, follows medical analyses carried out in UEFA’s top competitions, and aims to make the issues surrounding concussion more widely understood.
The campaign is designed to educate players, coaches, referees, doctors and the general public about concussion, and the importance of respecting a team doctor’s decisions when a player has suffered suspected or definite concussion.
The topic of concussion was raised within UEFA following several high-profile cases that occurred across UEFA’s leading competitions. The opinion of the UEFA Medical Committee is that the three minutes granted by the current concussion procedure to team doctors to assess on the pitch a potentially concussed player may be insufficient and that, with such a limited amount of time, doctors could be subject to excessive pressure from players and team officials.
As an immediate response, in April this year, the European body introduced a concussion awareness poster, which was displayed in all dressing rooms, medical rooms and referees’ rooms, reminding match participants about the procedure as well as to respect the decision of the team doctor.
UEFA also provided a medical video review system to all teams playing in the finals of the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, UEFA Women’s Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and UEFA Nations League, which allowed doctors to review live match footage and assess potential concussion incidents.
Building on that work, UEFA’s Executive Committee decided to raise the issue with the world governing body FIFA and football’s lawmakers, the International Football Association Board (IFAB), asking both to review the Laws of the Game in order to consider the introduction of appropriate measures such as temporary replacements that would help reduce the pressure on medical staff – giving doctors more time to assess a potential concussion off the pitch, so that no concussed player returns to the field of play.
While waiting for the Laws of the Game to be assessed, UEFA has decided to launch a campaign that would bring the topic of concussion into sharp focus and raise overall awareness and knowledge of the issue.
Commenting on the launch of the campaign, UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin said: “The health of players is of utmost importance and I strongly believe that the current regulations on concussion need updating to protect both the players and the doctors, in order to ensure that an appropriate diagnosis can be made without disadvantaging the teams affected, and I am delighted that FIFA and IFAB have responded positively to UEFA’s suggestions on this.”
The chairman of the UEFA Medical Committee, Tim Meyer, added: “We must keep addressing the issue of concussed players continuing match play. UEFA’s core message in this awareness campaign is aimed at protecting the players’ health, and we hope in particular that the campaign will raise greater awareness of the need to take all head injuries seriously.”