Recognise, Report, Remove: LaLiga and club doctors protecting players through concussion education

· LaLiga is collaborating with AFE, FIFPRO and European Leagues to increase awareness of the six main signs of a possible concussion.

· Real Sociedad doctor Javier Barrera has presented an advanced course to his counterparts, while clear video examples have been made available to LaLiga Santander and LaLiga SmartBank players.

As part of LaLiga’s efforts to keep improving player safety and wellbeing, the 42 professional football clubs that make up LaLiga Santander and LaLiga SmartBank have taken part in an advanced training course to increase awareness and understanding of concussions. In collaboration with the Association of Spanish Footballers (AFE), the International Federation of Professional Footballers (FIFPRO) and European Leagues, LaLiga has highlighted the six main signs of a possible concussion to club doctors, who will emphasise these to the rest of their staff and to the players themselves.

Real Sociedad’s first-team doctor Javier Barrera was selected to work with FIFPRO medical staff on this issue in January, before presenting the latest information on concussions to his colleagues at all the other LaLiga Santander and LaLiga SmartBank clubs.

Barrera stressed to his fellow medical professionals that: “As doctors, we should be clear about these three things and should explain this to the players too. The first is how to detect a concussion. The second is that a player with a concussion should be removed from the pitch and not allowed to go back on. The third is to give the player sufficient time to recover. We’ve seen that if we do this then the rate of recurring concussions or persistent symptoms is a lot lower. In other words, letting a player continue playing or letting them return to action too soon can make the rate of persistent symptoms or recurring concussions higher and there is solid evidence on this.”

In a presentation put together by Barrera and FIFPRO, video clips from official matches were used to highlight examples of the six main signs of a possible concussion, which are: lying motionless; motor incoordination; tonic posturing; no protective action or flopping; a blank or vacant look; and impact seizure.

These video examples, featuring concussions suffered by Álvaro Pereira, Christoph Kramer and Nordin Amrabat at the 2014 and 2018 World Cups, were sent to the club doctors for them to share with and show to their players and coaches, with LaLiga underlining the important role that players and coaches can have in helping to protect themselves and also their teammates and opponents. If they notice any of these six signs then they are urged to report it, following FIFPRO’s “Recognise, Report, Remove” message.

As Geni Martínez, the director of AFE’s Health Department, stated: “From AFE’s point of view, it’s important for the players to be aware and involved. The players can say to their teammates ‘you should go off because your health is more important than the match’. I think this is part of the challenge, to inform the players and to ensure they’re able to identify such a situation, prioritising the health of their teammates.”

This is why LaLiga has taken several proactive steps to raise awareness across the competition of the signs of a possible concussion, from organising the course with doctors from every club to communicating directly with the players via the organisation’s pioneering Players App.

As Luis Gil, the head of Competitions & Player´s Office, explained: “LaLiga and AFE are going to promote and support this training, and we’ll make use of our internal channels, such as the Players App we have at LaLiga or the captains’ network of AFE. We know the difficulties that can often exist in making players aware of this issue. We know it’s a challenge and that it’s difficult. But, it’s important for the players to be able to identify the signs or symptoms of a possible concussion in order to help their teammates and to put health first and foremost. It’s important that they can communicate this to the coaching and medical staff.”

Meanwhile, football’s governing bodies are working to determine a more standard protocol for concussions and this is a matter that FIFPRO’s chief medical officer Vincent Gouttebarge is prioritising, having suffered concussions during his own career.

Football is much safer than many other sports, as there is one concussion case for every 150 cases in American football or ice hockey. Or one for every 300 in rugby. But LaLiga is always striving to make the beautiful game as safe and enjoyable as possible. Whenever there is an opportunity to share best practices that can improve the sport, LaLiga is keen to engage and this collaboration with AFE, FIFPRO and European Leagues is yet another example of this. By recognising, reporting and removing players who have suspected concussions, Spanish football will remain at the forefront when it comes to player safety and wellbeing.

Tags Concussion Protocol LaLiga Referees
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