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Concussion debate faces FIFA, Jamaica

Published:Thursday | September 25, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Gordon Williams, Gleaner Writer

Doctors treating Jamaican footballers could soon have more than just responsibility for players' medical welfare. Depending on a FIFA ruling, they may also gain more influence over match outcome - whether or not they want it.

The executive committee of the sport's world governing body is expected, between today and tomorrow, to consider a proposal from its medical committee granting doctors the last word on whether a player suspected of suffering a concussion from head injury can continue in a game.

"The referee will only allow the injured party to continue playing with the authorisation of the team doctor who will have the final decision," the proposal states.

In Jamaica, that decision is usually made by the coach after consultation with the doctor. Local physicians appear to support the committee's proposals, which also allow referees to stop a game for three minutes to facilitate on-field concussion tests.

"It has to be something you should embrace because it's the right decision," Dr Derrick McDowell, a member of the Jamaica Football Federation's medical committee, said yesterday.

He explained that occasionally players suspected of having a concussion refuse to willingly leave the game, unaware of the dangers.

Facilitate evaluation

"Part of the concussion syndrome is the disorientation of the player and they will want to continue to play," McDowell said.

The proposal allowing the referee's discretion would facilitate evaluation and benefit all stakeholders, he added.

"You will now have more time to examine the player," said Dr McDowell, "to be fair to the player, team and yourself."

However, Dr McDowell admitted, the proposals, if accepted by FIFA, could pile responsibilities on doctors.

A player ruled unfit to continue could affect the game's outcome, especially if considered highly influential and the team is left shorthanded.

"Sure, there is going to be added pressure," said McDowell.

He's satisfied doctors' integrity and player safety will justify results of concussion tests.

"It might not be a popular decision," said Dr. McDowell, "but you have the time to make the correct decision."

Several incidents of suspected concussion surfaced during the 2014 World Cup, including Jamaica-born, England star Raheem Sterling's collision with Alvaro Pereira, rendering the Uruguayan unconscious.

Uruguay's team doctor signalled Pereira be substituted, but he was allowed to continue.

Germany's Christoph Kramer suffered a head injury in the final against Argentina, whose Javier Mascherano was also knocked cold during the tournament.