Premier League announces new medical rules for head injuries

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Tuesday 05 August 2014

Premier League announces new medical rules for head injuries

New policies for 2014/15 season include a tunnel doctor to help recognise signs of concussion

As the Premier League announces new rules and policies for head injuries, England players raise awareness of the issue. (Courtesy: The FA)

The Premier League has announced new medical rules and policies regarding head injuries suffered on the pitch.

During the 2013/14 season the Premier League Board set up a Medical Working Group to look at our existing rules and policies regarding head injuries.

The Working Group was led by Premier League Director of Football, Mike Foster, Chairman of the Premier League Doctors' Group and Arsenal Club Doctor, Dr Gary O’Driscoll, FA Head of Sports Medicine, Dr Ian Beasley, and members of the PFA, LMA and Football League.

Premier League Doctors' Group
- Formed in 2006
- Includes doctors from all 20 Barclays Premier League clubs and from recently relegated teams
- Group meets three times a season, plus more if necessary
- Participants share knowledge and experience
- Doctors can also react to issues of the day

The Group was asked to review existing rules and policies and consider ways that medical professionals could be further assisted in carrying out their duties. It consulted with a wide range of experts, including senior medical practitioners from the Rugby Football Union and British Horseracing Authority.

Their recommendations have already been addressed by Premier League clubs who agreed to new rules and policies being introduced for the 2014/15 Barclays Premier League season, including:

  • Premier League Rules making clear that when a serious head injury is suffered on the pitch (in matches or training) that the ruling of the doctor/medical practitioner is final.
  • The role of "Tunnel Doctors" (it is a new requirement for all Premier League matches to include a Tunnel Doctor) will include supporting the home and/or away team doctors in helping recognise the signs of concussion.
  • Making it mandatory for all Premier League medical staff to carry the Concussion Recognition Tool
  • Annual baseline testing should take place on each Premier League player

"Player safety is paramount in all sports and the Premier League has a strong track record of introducing new medical rules and provisions as top-level football has evolved and new challenges emerged," Premier League Director of Football, Mike Foster said. "The Medical Working Group that we set up to look into concussion and serious head injury protocols included valuable contributions from the Premier League Club Doctors’ Group, the FA medical team, the LMA and PFA, and other sports, including rugby union and horse racing.

"Premier League clubs have already addressed a number of recommendations by making changes to the Premier League Rule Book and we recognise that, with other stakeholders, we have a wider role to play in making all participants in the game aware of the signs of concussion and the importance of following the return to play guidelines."

Going forward the Premier League will appoint its own central Medical Advisor to work with Premier League club doctors, the FA and other stakeholders, and make sure we are at the forefront of sports medicine.

The Premier League and all Clubs will be supporting a FA led campaign to help inform all constituents in the game - including coaches, players, clubs and parents - that head injuries should be taken seriously and the opinion of a medical professional be sought should they occur.

"With regard to head injuries there has been a perception in the past that you can tough it out, you can play on, you can be brave," added Gary O'Driscoll. "What we found from the Working Group process is that in order to inform and educate people, and to manage this as effectively as possible, you need to make sure that everybody is aware of concussion, that everybody understands that it is just as significant as any other injury and that appropriate management is critical.

"For that reason we wanted to make sure that the players, the managers, the coaches, the medical teams, the media and the parents, everybody is aware that although it's fortunately a very rare injury, it's something that must be managed appropriately and safely. 

"That's the reason we have come up with recommendations, and new rules at Premier League level, and are supporting the wider game to get the message out there."

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