Concussion spotters to be placed in the stands at the
FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™

In an initiative designed to help ensure an overall improvement in football’s treatment of head injuries, that will “make things an awful lot safer” concussion spotters will be introduced into the stands at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ tournament.

These spotters will be given the job of monitoring and identifying potential signs of brain injuries from within the stands, that medical staff might not detect on the touchline. 

According to Andrew Massey the governing body’s new medical director, team doctors will also be able to watch video replays at all FIFA tournaments to check for symptoms of concussion. 

Massey speaking in an interview conducted on FIFA’s YouTube channel, said: 

“Often in football matches you miss these [signs], even if you’re sitting on the front row,”  

“You have people walking in front of you, you have the manager, you have the referee’s assistant, you have people warming up. So it’s easy to miss [symptoms]. 

“All FIFA competitions will have video replays. All FIFA competitions will have concussion spotters in the stand who can go through all these things and relay information to the team benches if it is needed. 

“It will just make things an awful lot safer.” 

The inclusion of concussion spotters at Qatar 2022™ seated outside the dugouts will be the first time this approach has been used at a major international football tournament.  

Meanwhile, spotters have been operating in most collision sports such as American football since 2012 and rugby from 2018. They were trialled in football earlier in the year during the FIFA Club World Cup™. 

FIFA’s medical director, Andrew Massey, was speaking about the procedure following the governing body’s decision to introduce concussion spotters, he went on to say: 

“You need to treat them [the concussed players] acutely, first of all, to make sure that they’re safe and then you need to remove them.” 

“So all FIFA competitions will have these video replays, all FIFA competitions will have concussion spotters in the stand that will go through all of these, that can relay the information to the team benches if that is needed. And it’ll just make things an awful lot safer.” 

Massey cited the example of the top English club’s leading scorer Mo Salah, who was clearly concussed and facing the massive dilemma of having to take him off in a vital premier league game against Newcastle in 2019.  

Concussion can affect memory, judgment, reflexes, speech along with balance and muscle coordination. Players with concussions often report a brief period of amnesia, where they cannot remember what happened immediately before or after the injury was sustained. 

The observable warning signs of a potential brain injury are: 

Motor dysfunction: covering an inability to control or coordinate motor functions, as well as disturbance to balance.  

Sensory changes: alterations in the ability to hear, taste or see; otherwise hypersensitivity to light or sound. 

Cognitive problems, these are complex and can involve one or multiples of the following conditions: a shortened attention span; being easily distracted, overstimulated by environment; difficulty staying focused on a task, following directions or understanding information; feeling of disorientation, confusion and other neuropsychological deficiencies. 

Added to which, players may suffer conditions such as a constant or recurring headache and difficulty with speech including finding the “right” word; problems expressing words or thoughts and finally dysarthric speech. 

With the welfare of the players at heart, FIFA rightly introduced trials of concussion substitutions this year, allowing permanent substitutions to be made should a player suffer a head injury, regardless of whether the original complement of replacements have already been used in full. Whereas, the world players’ union FIFPro, say they would prefer to see the system already in use in rugby union adopted, which uses temporary substitutions, and an extension of the diagnosis period from three to ten minutes for any potentially concussed player. 

Nevertheless, collectively these moves have player welfare and wellbeing at their core and giant strides forward are being made in the treatment of injuries this crucial part of the body across the beautiful game. 

Source: FIFA YouTube channel

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