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Premier League to trial concussion substitutes starting February 6

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In a move that should’ve happened years ago, teams will be given two extra substitutes in the event of head injuries.

Burnley v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images

Starting with tomorrow’s slate of matches, the Premier League will begin trialing a new protocol for dealing with head injuries and concussions. Each team will have a maximum of two concussion substitutes that can be used in addition to the three regular substitutes, but under certain circumstances.

If the match is stopped by the match official for a potential concussion injury, doctors will be given as much time to assess the affected player(s) as necessary in order to monitor for concussion symptoms while the video footage is reviewed. Should the player(s) exhibit clear symptoms of concussion and/or there’s video evidence that a concussion may have occurred, the player(s) will be removed from play and substituted.

If the player is allowed to remain on the pitch but later develops concussion symptoms during the match, the player can then be substituted under the concussion protocol rules.

Should a club make a concussion substitution, the opposing club will also be given an opportunity to make an additional sub of their own, even if they have used their three allotted “regular subs.”

Notably, match officials are NOT included in the decision making process as to what constitutes a head injury — those are made by the tunnel doctors and medical professionals from the clubs playing the match.

Image source: premierleague.com

This policy makes a ton of sense and should’ve happened a long time ago. It’s taken the Premier League a while to wake up to the fact that concussion-related injuries are a big deal. The rules up until now have actively encouraged players to hide concussion-related symptoms, because they may not have wanted to “penalize” their clubs by using one of their three subs or leaving them down a man if they’d used them all already.

I also like giving the opposition team to use a sub of their own in this circumstance, as it also disincentivizes a club cynically playing up a potential head injury in order to gain a “free” sub and a possible advantage in the match.

I can think of plenty of times when players who were obviously struggling after clashing heads were allowed to foolishly remain on the pitch to play — the collision between Hugo Lloris and Romelu Lukaku in 2013 in a match between Spurs and Everton comes to mind immediately. Hopefully these new protocols will make sure that potential head injuries in the game are treated with the care they so desperately need.

The trial will run through the end of the season.