Head injuries in sport- where does the buck stop?


 Chelsea were criticised by a leading brain injury charity for their response to Thibaut Courtois’s head injury over the past fortnight.

After colliding with Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez the goalkeeper played on for a further 14 minutes before being substituted with blood coming from his ear, prompting Headway’s Chief Executive Peter McCabe to question why the Belgian was allowed to play on in the first place.

The Premier League recently introduced new regulations for head injuries and McCabe felt that Chelsea had broken these rules.

He said: “The new rules introduced this season were designed to ensure no risks to players’ health were taken.

“They clearly state that ‘if there is any suspicion of the player having sustained a concussion, they must be removed from the field of play, and not allowed to return’.

“Bleeding from one or both ears is one of the symptoms that require an immediate visit to hospital.”

Obviously there are times when absolutely nothing can be done but, although the new Premier League rules are a step in the right direction, should sporting authorities be doing more to prevent potentially serious brain and head injuries?

For example, if we don’t want our footballers to receive injuries of this nature should they be allowed to head the ball at all?

After all, it was ruled that former West Bromwich Albion striker Jeff Astle died as a result of brain trauma caused by heading footballs.

Clearly a blanket ban on using your head in sport would be difficult to implement and unrealistic but short of that there isn’t really much the people in charge can do to prevent them.

This leads to the argument that the authorities should not face such a responsibility, but that the buck should fall at the individual referee for any particular game.

The former medical advisor to the international rugby board Barry O’Driscoll intimated as much when talking about an injury his nephew Brian O’Driscoll received while playing for Ireland against France last year.

He said: “If that had been allowed in the United States, during an American football match, then the officials involved would have been sacked”.

Anyone looking to back up this argument should look no further than the case of Gerald McClellan, the former boxer who was tragically left blind and crippled after a fight with Nigel Benn in 1995.

Many argue that the referee that night should have stopped the fight way earlier than the eventual tenth round stoppage, but if both fighters were willingly partaking and no rules had been broken then why should he have?

Essentially the responsibility falls to three different groups – the authorities, the individual referee or the sportsperson themselves.

Who do you think should have the final say?

Jake Pointon

Filed Under: Sport


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