PFA says concussion rules must be addressed ‘urgently’ to avoid ‘serious’ injury

The Professional Footballers’ Association has renewed calls for the introduction of temporary concussion substitutes after fresh controversy over the weekend.

Aston Villa goalkeeper Emi Martinez took a heavy blow to the head in an accidental collision with team-mate Tyrone Mings in the first half of his side’s 4-0 defeat at Newcastle on Saturday, but initially stayed on after lengthy treatment before being replaced shortly after.

The incident provoked fresh debate over head injury protocols, and the PFA has now said current rules are putting players at “serious risk”.

Dr Adam White, head of the PFA’s brain health department, said: “Put simply, the current laws of the game are jeopardising player health and safety.

“Permanent substitutions do not allow medical teams to assess a player with a potentially serious brain injury in an appropriate environment. The rules as they are create an extremely challenging situation and offer no support to medical personnel.”

In December 2020, the International Football Association Board introduced a trial of permanent concussion substitutes – not counting towards a side’s substitute limit.

The Premier League, the Football Association and English Football League subsequently adopted the rule permanently across all professional competitions – a move widely welcomed at the time.

But the PFA continues to push for the introduction of temporary concussion substitutes, which would allow medical staff longer to assess potential injuries before making a decision on whether or not a player needs to be permanently replaced.

Newcastle United v Aston Villa – Premier League – St. James’ Park
Emiliano Martinez receiving treatment at St James’ Park on Saturday (Owen Humphreys/PA)

The players’ union also expressed alarm that European governing body UEFA is yet to integrate the permanent concussion substitute rule into major competitions including the Champions League, Europa League and Nations League.

White added: “This situation needs to be addressed urgently. As a bare minimum UEFA, as one of football’s major bodies, must lead by example and introduce the available permanent concussion substitution rule. This is an issue the PFA will be raising with UEFA directly.”

Villa’s decision to initially keep Martinez on was heavily criticised on Saturday.

Caretaker boss Aaron Danks said: “We’ve got very professional medical staff, they had been on and assessed him and he was OK to continue.

“Then, obviously things have changed or there was a delayed onset of something that has meant that he’s had to come off.”