The Premier League is considering allowing temporary substitutions to be made while a player is being tested for concussion, and they have announced plans to run a trial during the 2023/24 season.
They believe that giving physios more time to assess those that have taken a blow to the head will result in a lower chance of a player returning to the action when they shouldn’t.
Medical staff have also reported the pressure they are under to make an accurate and speedy concussion diagnosis on the pitch, and especially so when the player involved is a key figure for their team. A temporary substitution would allow them to examine the impacted player more thoroughly in the dressing room.
Often the symptoms of concussion don’t emerge straight away, and so players can be given the green light to play on erroneously – as seen in the case of Iran goalkeeper Ali Beiranvand at the World Cup against England.
He was on the receiving end of a sickening clash of heads with teammate Majid Hosseini, but was allowed to play on by medical staff. However, minutes later, Beiranvand collapsed to the floor and was rushed to hospital, where he was diagnosed with a significant concussion.
Rugby and cricket have already introduced temporary concussion substitutes, and football could follow suit if the trial, which will be run by the Premier League, France’s Ligue 1 and Major League Soccer, proves to be successful.
EPL chiefs need the permission of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) to change their rules, and they have written to the organisation outlining their plan.
IFAB will announce whether they will allow the trial to go ahead in March, although in the past they have been against temporary substitutions. Instead, they would rather that extra permanent subs are allowed to cover for head injuries – that has been the Premier League’s stance until now.
What are the Current Concussion Protocol?
It comes about at a time when football is becoming increasingly under pressure from brain injury and dementia campaigners.
Rules have been brought in to limit the number of times players can head the ball in training, although some don’t feel the new protocol go far enough – especially as the evidence is increasing that there’s a clear link between heading a football and brain trauma.
The Premier League introduced additional permanent concussion substitutions (APCS) in February 2021, which were designed to ensure that teams weren’t hampered if one of their players suffered a concussion but they had already used all of their subs.
All EPL clubs signed off of the idea, and now they are allowed to use up to two APCS subs per game, with the affected player unable to later return to the pitch.
Under the new plan, a temporary sub could be allowed to stay on the pitch for as long as 15 minutes while their teammate is tested. They will then remain on the field permanently if the concussion assessment requires their colleague to have further treatment.