FIFA Approves Concussion Substitutions For Testing At Club World Cup

SAN FRANCISCO, January 09, (THEWILL) – The world football governing body, FIFA, Saturday, confirmed its decision to allow additional permanent substitutions for cases of actual or suspected concussion. The first international competition to test the procedure will be the FIFA Club World Cup in Qatar from 1 to 11 February 2021.

After extensive consultation with key stakeholders and FIFA’s input, the protocols for concussion substitutes were approved at the Annual Business Meeting (ABM) of the International Football Association Board (IFAB) in December 2020. The approval was granted with a view to:

– send a strong message that, if in any doubt, the player should be withdrawn;
– prevent a player from sustaining another concussion during the match, as multiple head-injury incidents can have very deleterious repercussions;
– reduce the pressure on medical personnel to make quick on-the-spot assessments which may be incorrect; and
– establish a simple procedure that can be applied at all levels of the game, wherever it is played.

The IFAB’s circular no. 21, which covers the modalities of the procedure, states that FIFA will implement a protocol that permits each team to use a maximum of one concussion substitute in a match regardless of the number of substitutes already used.

This concussion substitutes trial will be employed alongside competition regulations and return-to-sport strategy outlined in the Sport Concussion Assessment Tool (SCAT 5) developed by the concussion in sport group.

IFAB also allowed teams participating in the FIFA Club World Cup to make up to five normal substitutions per game. However, to avoid frequent disruptions, each team will only have three opportunities to make these substitutions while substitutions may also be made at the interval.

Ahead of the February 1 kickoff date for the Club World Cup, the draws to finalise the detailed pairings will take place on 19 January in Zurich, Switzerland.

Fully cognisant of the rampaging coronavirus pandemic, FIFA, working in close collaboration with Qatar, will adhere to required safeguards to protect the health and safety of all involved in the competition, including the full implementation of FIFA’s Return to Football – International Match Protocol.

The concussion substitutions are a welcome development and display the fact that FIFA is listening to the experts and what data from science are bringing to the light. The impact of trauma that can result from concussions the are not immediately attended to by medical professionals have become a hot topic especially in high speed impact sports like Rugby and American football.

Recently, injuries sustained by Wolves striker Raul Jimenez and Arsenal’s David Luiz in their November 2020 fixture brought the concussion argument to football forefront once again. Jimenez required surgery for a fractured while Luiz, who was allowed to continue playing, had to be substituted when the wound sustained in the clash of heads began bleeding again.

At least, this rule easies the worrying of the tactical bench of football teams, who are trying to think in terms of managing an entire game and the number of substitutes they will need to prosecute a victory instead of having the welfare of their concussed player in mind when making substitutions. That is why the double piece of good news, the allowance to use up to five substitutes per game and the trialling of the concussion substitutions will come as a relief to coaches ahead of FIFA events.