Headway Condemns Decision To Leave Player With Head Injury On Pitch

French Club Criticised Over Decision To Risk Player's Safety In Match


Brain injury charity Headway has hit out at the actions of a French rugby union club for its failure to remove a player with a head injury from the pitch.

Toulouse centre Florian Fritz suffered concussion during the Top 14 league match on May 9th, with medical staff taking several minutes to treat him as he showed clear signs of being confused and dazed, even seeming to try to deny medical teams access to the cut to his head from which blood was pouring.

Despite this, after ten minutes - the maximum stipulated time after a concussion for assessment to take place - Fritz was allowed to return to the field.

Headway chief executive Peter McCabe condemned the decision of Toulouse coach Guy Noves to let the player return, saying the "appalling and shocking" decision constitutes "a timely reminder of just how much work is still needed in order to change attitudes towards [cases of] head injury in sport".

Noves justified the decision on the grounds that he had played on after head knocks during his career, but Mr McCabe said this attitude was "dangerous, out-dated and cavalier".

He called on the French Rugby Federation and the International Rugby Board (IRB) to act to ensure no other Toulouse players are put at risk in similar circumstances.

The criticisms were echoed by former IRB medical adviser Barry O'Driscoll, a campaigner on head injury issues in the sport.

He said: "If rugby doesn't wake up to this and start demonstrating a zero tolerance approach to head injuries, it will be storing up some very serious legal problems for itself."

Florian Fritz is not the first Frenchman to be involved in a sporting controversy over a head injury in recent months.

In November last year, Tottenham Hotspur goalkeeper Hugo Lloris suffered concussion in a Premier League match when he dived at the feet of Everton's Romelu Lukaku, sustaining a blow to the head from the player's knee as they both went for the ball.

Despite being knocked out, Lloris was allowed to play on after treatment, a move described by Headway as "irresponsible".

Expert Opinion
This is yet another indication that the debate around head injuries and concussion in sport will only continue unless action is taken to agree a consistent, safe approach to the issue which puts the welfare of players first.

"We have seen first-hand how serious head injuries can have significant consequences for people in all walks of life, in some cases leaving people with long-term conditions for which they need access to rehabilitation and support.

"This is not an issue which should be treated lightly and we hope that sporting bodies can address this once and for all."
Stephen Nye, Partner