FOOTBALL RUGBY

OPINION: Why concussion is becoming a political issue within global sport, and why pro athletes may soon strike

Gloucester Rugby’s medical staff have received plenty of praise over the weekend for their speedy decision-making in stopping Willi Heinz from continuing with concussion.

The captain of the Cherry and Whites sustained a blow to the head early on in Friday’s derby defeat to Bristol Bears, and attempted to play on straight away.

Gloucester’s head of medical Eoin Power grabbed the scrum-half before he was able to catch up with play.

You can see the moment it happened below:

Rugby’s caution when it comes to concussion-type injuries is well documented, and it has long called into question the decision-making process in sports such as football.

In the last two days alone, incidents involving Premier League footballers have been ‘brushed under the carpet’, so to speak.

Let’s take a look at those two incidents in more depth, and what measures can be taken in future to eradicate the long-term effects of concussion coming to fruition.

WEST HAM UNITED vs NEWCASTLE UNITED

In the opening exchanges of Saturday evening’s Premier League fixture between the Hammers and the Magpies, a clash of heads between Aaron Cresswell (West Ham) and Javier Manquillo (Newcastle) saw the game freeze for five minutes.

The nasty-looking collision could easily have ruled both players out for the remainder of the game, but the mere gesture of a thumbs-up from both and a head bandage was enough for them to carry on.

Cresswell would later be substituted, but many would agree he shouldn’t have been given the choice to resume in the first place.

WATFORD vs LEICESTER CITYE

Fast forward 19 hours, and a similar incident occurred just outside of the nation’s capital.

Hornets ‘keeper and former England international Ben Foster came out to attack an enticing cross that had been swung into the Watford area.

Unfortunately for him, Jamie Vardy thought it was an enticing one to attack too. Both players collided as Foster’s fists appeared to connect with Vardy’s head.

And much like the incident just one night before, both players were able to resume after being given the all-clear by their respective medical staffs.

If you’re not already thinking along the same lines, here’s England Rugby’s stance on concussion, for :

“Concussion must be taken extremely seriously to safeguard the short and long term health and welfare of players, and especially young players.

The majority (80-90%) of concussions resolve in a short (7-10 days) period… During this recovery time however, the brain is more vulnerable to further injury, and if a player returns too early, before they have fully recovered this may result in prolonged concussion symptoms, possible long-term health consequences, and/or severe brain swelling.”

Time and time again, we see sports teams take extra care of players returning from long-term, and sometimes even short-term, injuries. The medical departments approach the idea of a returning player with supreme caution, in the event that the player in question might ‘aggravate’ the previously sustained injury.

If nothing is being left to chance in that sense, shouldn’t teams be doing the same before any injury has even occurred?

A clash of heads is a clear warning sign, if ever there is one, when considering the long-term health of any athlete.

In an injury completely unrelated to sport, women’s GB hockey captain and Olympic gold medallist Alex Danson claims to have ‘lost the ability to read’ following a concussion sustained in 2018.

This is alarming, to say the least, considering footballers are expected to compete at an elite level despite potentially having the same diagnosis.

Who knows? At some point in the future, we may see players going on strike until the correct concussion protocol is followed by every single medical staffer in the land.

Not for the first time, rugby have got it right. It’s about time football followed.

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