Concussion has been a concern in sport for a number of years now, particularly around Rugby Union. Laws have been brought in and protocols introduced to try and reduce the risk of concussion and improve player welfare.
Rugby as known as a relatively ferocious sport, with collisions coming in all over the place and some leading to some serious head injuries which have ended careers in some cases. This is not to say that World Rugby don’t put the welfare of their players above all else, sometimes a concussion is purely an accident. But when they happen, they are awful.
Football is not widely renowned as a ferocious sport. It’s largely non-contact with little impact to the head, with the exception of heading the ball. Which is why it has caused a stir that Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius suffered a concussion during the Champions League final against Real Madrid last month.
The match was won be Real Madrid 3-1, with 24 year old Karius seemingly at fault for two of the goals. After the match he was examined in a Boston hospital by medics and they have said that at some point in the match he has suffered the concussion and the effects would be felt ‘almost immediately’ and ‘potentially’ could ‘affect his performance.’ Officials did not see the collision that took place between Karius and Real Madrid player Sergio Ramos and are unable to pinpoint the time the concussion took place.
Concussion is defined as a temporary injury to the brain that usually lasts either a few days or a few weeks, but could have longer-term effects. Don’t be fooled by that word temporary. A blow to the head that’s hard enough could have effects that are far from temporary. The affects from repeated concussions can be severe too.
Symptoms of concussions can include headaches, blurred vision, nausea and vomiting, clumsiness and feeling dazed and confused. More serious symptoms include sensitivity to light, temporary hearing and sight loss and migraines.
Football now looks to rugby union as UEFA bring in new technology to assess concussions from laptops, much like they do in rugby. Currently, football doesn’t allow for an interchange of players while the potentially concussed player is examined. In rugby they have a 10 minute period where a player can be subbed as they are checked for signs of concussion, known as a HIA (Head Injury Assessment) Rugby is also blessed with the TMO, a Television Match Official, that is able to review footage and highlight a point in which a player may have gained a concussion, technology that UEFA doesn’t have, though the English Premier League has had access to since 2016. The new proposals by UEFA state that medical officials at the sidelines by supplied with tablets upon which they are able to re-watch harmful scenes that may have taken place.
The issue of concussion and player welfare has reared its head once again in Rugby after French winger Remy Grosso sustained a double facial fracture bad enough to render him hospitalised after a double high tackled by New Zealand players Sam Cane and Ofa Tu’ungafasi at their match at Eden Park on Saturday. At the time, the referee penalised neither player, leaving the wider rugby community baffled to the non-punishment, especially considering the severity of the injury. Tu’ungafasi has since been cited for a shoulder to the face by world rugby, with Cane’s arm to the face going seemingly unpunished.
Rugby has fought against concussions for a long time, the tackle height set to be lowered again this year to ‘below nipple height’ from its previous ‘below shoulder height’ to protect the head. It is now time for all sports to work together in the prevention of this very serious, potentially career ending injury.