Former PGMOL boss Keith Hackett on head injuries in football – We must act before someone dies on the field

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It seems remarkable when you consider everything that we know about brain injuries just now, but it’s taken far too long for a link to be made between brain injuries and those who play high impact sport.

The incident between David Luiz and Raul Jimenez on Sunday evening has resulted in yet another talking point, while there were also unwelcome memories of the awful injury that Petr Cech suffered years ago when playing for Chelsea.

I was the boss of PGMOL on October 14 2006 when Cech collided with Reading winger Stephen Hunt. Mike Riley was the referee who immediately blew the whistle and urged the trainer onto the field, but it was only later that we learned of his life threatening injuries.

The design of the stadium resulted in difficulties when it came to getting him off the field, while an ambulance had to rush him to a hospital over 30 miles away where they had to carry out a life saving operation on his fractures skull.

Petr Cech Chelsea
Petr Cech continued to wear the skullcap for the rest of his career after that incident

The Premier League acted quickly with the CEO Richard Scudamore arranging for every Premier League game to have a doctor, a paramedic and an ambulance in attendance.

They also introduced new criteria which included having oxygen available and new guidelines were set on how injured players would be physically moved, so it was clear that some lessons were learned from that incident.

In Rugby Union and various American sports any head injuries are dealt with immediately and a concussion protocol is in place. The NFL also have independent concussion specialists on hand who have to approve a player going back into the game, while they also have the power to force a player to be be tested if they see someone taking a big hit to the head.

The incident between David Luis and Raul Jimenez highlighted that we still have a long way to go when it comes to treating and analysing injuries suffered by footballers during a game.

The referee and both teams deserve credit for immediately waving medics onto the field after it was clear that Jimenez had been knocked out following the collision with the Arsenal defender.

READ MORE: Keith Hackett’s English refereeing review: Technology has changed the way we watch the Premier League – Let’s use it to our advantage to help VAR and the referees

The on-field treatment took several minutes before Jimenez was taken to a waiting ambulance, but it was worrying to see David Luiz return to the field when you consider he also suffered a serious head injury.

I was surprised to see that a concussion protocol had taken place and he returned to the field heavily bandaged, while it must be noted that the referee Michael Oliver had no power to step in and intervene even if he had serious concerns over the wellbeing of the player.

He should’ve sent him off the field for further treatment once blood started to seep through the bandages, which would be no different to a referee sending a player from the field if a shirt had blood on it and needed to be replaced.

I agree with Alan Shearer in his reaction later on MOTD2 where he highlighted grave concerns about how football deals with head injuries, while he rightly suggested that football needs to meet the standards that we see in other sports.

Thankfully it looks like both players will be okay after this incident, but we seriously need to act on this now before we have an incident where someone dies on the field of play.

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