There has been an outcry on social media for concussion and head injury protocols to ameliorate after a collision between Raul Jimenez and David Luiz in Wolverhampton Wanderers win against Arsenal on Sunday.
The incident between Luiz and Jimenez happened early on at the Emirates Stadium with the latter coming off worse – the Mexican international was rushed to hospital after fracturing his skull.
Luiz was deemed well enough to continue even with blood seeping through the layers of bandages wrapped around his head, however the defender was forced off at half-time, leaving viewers wondering if he should have been able to continue after receiving 10 minutes of treatment.
Bristol City Women’s head physio Yaw Billy thinks the risky decision taken by the Arsenal staff to leave Luiz on was understandable, however he gave an insight into the pressure on physios, and spoke about a daunting experience of his own.
“It’s a very contentious discussion that’s going on, he may not have shown any signs of concussion immediately and they may not have found out in a quick assessment,” said Billy.
“I’ve had times with footballers on the pitch who have had head clashes – blood-related. You treat them, give them a quick concussion assessment and everything seems to be fine. You then take them off and wait for the ref to bring them back on, and the scariest one for me was that the player looked at me when we were waiting on the side and said “what are we doing here? Why are you here and why am I standing here?”
“I asked him what he was on about and he had actually forgotten everything, but when I assessed him minutes before, he was absolutely perfect, not one problem.
“Obviously then we never sent him on, but he was fine in the assessment. It could’ve been a situation like that [David Luiz] where he showed no signs of concussion and then showed delayed minor signs.”
Billy claims there is substantial pressure on physios from the management team in such tough situations, and that one wrong call from his side could massively affect his job.
“If the team loses when you made the decision to take that person off and he’s not concussed, there is the potential then of being out of a job.
“It happened at Chelsea with Eva Carneiro, she took a player off when they weren’t injured and she ran on the pitch, which ended up with her losing her job. The pressure is there from the management because if it’s someone in the starting XI, they won’t want them coming off unless they 100% need to.”
Recent studies in football have found high rates of concussions, traumatic brain injuries, and a serious brain disorder called chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in former players, which can have terribly debilitating effects.
After the injuries suffered to Jimenez and Luiz, there are proposals of a ‘concussion substitute’, in which a team with a player who is suffering from concussion will be able to sub that player off on top of their allocated amount of subs.
Billy, who has also worked in basketball and rugby, thinks this idea makes sense and that it could make football a lot safer for the players.
“You’ve got more range in rugby and basketball as the players can come off and back on, that way you have a lot more freedom to assess them and take time if needed and there’s not as much pressure compared to football I find which makes my life a lot easier.
At the end of the day, the health of the athlete is what’s most important, and if there’s any type of rule that can help the health of an athlete then that’s the perfect case scenario.
A concussion sub-rule would’ve been perfect in the Luiz situation because if he was able to come off and then Arsenal still had all their subs remaining it’s fair, and even if it’s a rule where he is allowed to come back on then its better than the current situation. Safety changes to the game are always required and they need continuous updating.”