UEFA has taken another important step to protect players’ health and safety by launching a concussion charter for teams taking part in the European men’s and women’s club and national team competitions.
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The measure is the latest stage in UEFA’s drive to educate players, coaches, referees, doctors and the general public about the dangers of concussion in football, following on from its implementation of a keynote concussion awareness campaign in 2019.
The concussion charter has been drawn up by the UEFA Medical Committee. It aims to reinforce the importance of good practice in concussion management and highlights the concussion procedures to be followed at UEFA men’s and women’s club and national team matches.
The charter also promotes the education of players, coaches and staff about the concussion procedures in force at UEFA games.
Safeguarding players’ health
Club and national teams are being urged to sign the charter not only to support UEFA’s awareness campaign, but also to underline their commitment to safeguarding the health of their players.
In doing so, the signatories pledge their full support for UEFA's guidance on how to recognise and manage a head injury from the time of injury through to the safe return to football.
As part of the charter’s provisions, club and national team doctors are being asked to organise specific education sessions to brief players, coaches and staff about the concussion procedure to be followed at UEFA matches.
UEFA head injury procedure
• In the event of a suspected concussion, the referee will stop the game to allow the injured player to be assessed by the team doctor. Players should remain calm during the situation and not interfere with the assessment.
• The assessment should in principle not take more than three minutes, unless a serious incident requires the player to be treated on the field of play or immobilised on the field for immediate transfer to hospital.
• If the assessment cannot be made after the three minutes and/or a suspicion for a concussion arises, the player should not be allowed to continue playing.
• A player suffering a head injury that requires assessment for a potential concussion will only be allowed to continue playing after the assessment, on specific confirmation by the team doctor to the referee of the players fitness to do so.
The decision remains entirely with the team doctor. Coaches, referees and players are not allowed to interfere in the assessment and decision of the doctor.
During the education sessions, team doctors should explain and present to players, coaches and staff the video developed for the UEFA concussion awareness campaign, and may also present a UEFA concussion awareness poster produced for the campaign (men's and women's version).
Medical video review system
Another stipulation included in the charter sees UEFA strongly encouraging its 55 member associations to deploy at UEFA competitions, where possible, a medical video review system at their stadiums to enable immediate and informed injury assessments.
UEFA will facilitate the installation of the system with the host broadcaster. Home teams using a medical review system should offer the visiting team the same system.
“Everyone should know how to react and what to do” – Tim Meyer, UEFA Medical Committee chairman
“Concussion is undoubtedly a serious injury which needs to be managed and treated properly. The health and safety of any players taking part in Europe’s club and national team competitions is of paramount importance not only to UEFA, but also to national associations across the continent.”
“Although research studies report a low incidence in football, everyone should know how to react and what to do in the event of a concussion on the pitch.”
“By signing this charter, clubs and national teams will demonstrate their support for UEFA’s concussion awareness activities - and take a considerable step forward in helping to protect their players.”
UEFA’s proactive stance on concussion
UEFA launched its concussion awareness campaign in October 2019, with the focal point on Improving concussion management in football.
The campaign followed medical analyses carried out in UEFA's top competitions, and aims to make the issues surrounding concussion more widely understood.
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.
In December 2020, IFAB approved trials with permanent concussion substitutes until the end of July 2022, confirming its decision in March this year.