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Lawyers urge Football's Governing Bodies to take action to avoid repeated blows to the head

Concussion in football is a topic that is not going away. Although there have been attempts to introduce protocol and other risk management measures, the concerns remain. 

Concussion in football: the risks

There is emerging evidence about the long-term impact of heading a football including the early onset of dementia. The governing bodies are on notice about the impact of repeated blows to the head can have. 

This includes heading a football which is often sent high into the air by a goal kick. There are also dangers with allowing players to continue to participate in a game after a blow to the head. 

There have been two examples which spring to mind in the Euro 2020 competition. 

Potential future liability

The legal analysis is not as simple as considering whether there is a protocol is in place. The protocol needs to stand up to scrutiny. The test is likely to be what would a reasonable governing body have done when drafting the protocol and when considering the rules of the game in the knowledge that injuries are occurring at a later stage after retirement for numerous players. 

If the governing body fail to take advice or failed to consider a key risk, they are likely to be in breach of their duty of care. 

A substandard risk assessment does not prevent liability; it may in fact increase the finding liability. In addition, the protocol has to be followed. If it is not, breach of duty will have arisen. If no action is taken, despite being on notice, liability is likely to arise. 

What next?

I am sure that many, particularly those working in the field of brain injury, have noticed the huge impact which is placed on a football player's head when heading a football. This is particularly stark in slow motion. 

However, the ongoing and future health of the players has to come first. It is difficult to see how long-term heading in football can continue, as the emerging evidence of early onset dementia continues. 

In addition, I suspect that the protocols will be more tightly followed in years to come and that many players will be substituted if and when they have suffered from a blow to the head with, for example, another player. 

To do otherwise and to allow players to continue after suffering from a blow to the head is reckless and endangers the player's health. Importantly, it also sets completely the wrong example to the potentially millions of young people who are watching the game. 

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in helping sportspeople following injury at our dedicated sports injury section.

According to Luke Griggs, deputy chief executive at the brain injury charity Headway, the Euros have seen “a number of incidents that are at best questionable and at worst entirely inappropriate”.”