Thibaut Courtois lays outstretched and lifeless on the Stamford Bridge turf. Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez pats the Belgian with concern after the two collided in the Chelsea penalty area.
After recent high-profile head injuries, most notably at the World Cup, FIFA proposed new protocol for the management of concussion in the sport.
The proposal suggests, when a suspected incident of concussion occurs, the referee has the ability to stop the game for three minutes and allow for assessment of the injured party by the team doctor.
Ten minutes into Chelsea v Arsenal, FIFA’s concussion guidelines were under scrutiny.
Chelsea’s team doctor, Eva Carneiro, rushed to the assistance of Courtois. Her assessment would last no more than 56 seconds and concluded that the Belgian international was OK to continue. 13 minutes later, Courtois, with blood leaking from his ear would be removed from the pitch and taken to hospital.
Chelsea have defended their actions and Courtois has tweeted stating his well-being, but it raises questions as to how effective the new concussion ground rules really are.
The Football Association’s interpretation of the FIFA protocol states – “If there has been a confirmed or suspected period of loss of consciousness, the player must be removed from the field of play”
It’s unclear whether Courtois lost consciousness, but it what is clear is that a player with head trauma was left on the pitch when he should have been swiftly removed.
This now poses the question; how much of a say do clubs have whether a player stays on the pitch or not?
Jose Mourinho has refuted claims that he insisted Courtois stay on the pitch.
“On the bench I don’t communicate with the doctors. I just get decisions. ‘Can he stay (on)?’ ‘Yes’; ‘He has to leave’. ‘Okay’.”
Courtois’s replacement was Petr Cech. He too was on the receiving end of a sickening blow to the head against Reading in 2006, which resulted in a fracture to the head and the 32-year-old wearing a modified rugby scrum cap.
As the season progresses it may become more apparent as to who calls the shots on traumatic head injuries and whether FIFA’s rules will help protect the players on the pitch.
By Ross Cannon