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Neurosurgeon shines spotlight on concussion injuries

Published:Friday | August 6, 2021 | 12:13 AMLivingston Scott/Gleaner Writer

Neurosurgeon Dr Carl Bruce believes that it is time the local football fraternity takes concussions and the threat of concussion injuries more seriously and recommends the introduction of a local heading-guidance protocol, similar to the one English football instituted recently.

The new guidance in England focuses specifically on training sessions, where the majority of heading takes place. The initial focus will be on headers involving high force(typically, header following a long pass or from crosses, corners, and free kicks). It recommends that no more than 10 higher-force headers should be carried out in any training week.

Bruce believes that these types of injuries need to be treated with much more concern in local football. “There are people who are still not taking this seriously, and so I must remind them that the days of a player getting a concussion and people telling them to tough it out or shake it off are over.

“It is now in the spotlight. There is more attention on it, so there are more reports on it,” he said.

He noted that there is now evidence that footballers are developing more head injury-related illnesses later on in life, and Jamaica needs to take steps to protect its players.

“The reason why we need training protocols is for the very reasons we introduced guidelines for concussion and concussion substitutes in games. If you are going to protect the players and players’ welfare in games, you will also have to protect them in practice situations,” he said.

He agrees with the recommendations in England that the distance and speed the ball travels for headers in training, as well as its repetition, should be controlled.

“The risk of a concussion is lower if players stand and someone throws the ball as opposed to when it comes at high speed.

“If you practise with low force, it is okay. The trouble comes when you have high velocity and high force, or when you have too much heading in practice,” he said.

He added that the medical fraternity is ready to work with local football’s stakeholders to develop their own protocols and that everyone involved with local teams should be educated on how to manage concussion.

“We must educate not just trainers and team doctors, but coaches, teachers, physical education teachers, parents, and officials. We must ensure we are able to diagnose the possibility of a concussion based on symptoms.

Set up guidelines

“We at the university hospital would like work with the federation and Professional Football Jamaica Limited (PFJL) and the Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association on this and set up guidelines as it is not as simple as taking the guidelines from another country and implementing it.

“The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) has given us a lot of support. The committee, led by Dr Guyan Arscott, along with (national) coach (Theodore) Whitmore and several trainers from Premier League clubs participated with us in a conference on concussion at the Montego Bay Convention Centre.

“So the dialogue has started, and we are going to want to continue working with Dr Arscot and the (JFF) president to ensure we implement some realistic guidelines,” he said.

Meanwhile, JFF technical and development chairman Rudolph Speid fully supports the idea and said he would personally be recommending this policy to the federation.

“It is our duty to examine it. We should talk to some of the medical personnel to see if it’s something that should be implemented. It is something we definitely have to look at, and I will personally bring it up,” he said.

The new English Football Association heading guidance was designed to prevent players from developing mental complications in the short and long term. It takes effect at the start of the 2021-22 football season across every level of the professional and amateur game.