Doctors must be unbiased when dealing with concussion in sport… Jan Vertonghen’s nasty injury against Ajax showed again it’s not possible for a club medic to be totally objective
- Jan Vertonghen suffered severe head injury for Tottenham in match against Ajax
- He was assessed, cleared by the team doctor, then allowed back on to the pitch
- The problem is that it is impossible for a club doctor to be totally objective
- Dr Barry O’Driscoll is an ex-International Rugby Board medical adviser
Do the powers that be in football do enough about concussion? Or do we have to wait for a catastrophe before something changes?
After a clash of heads, Jan Vertonghen was down on the pitch with blood pouring from his nose. He was assessed, medically cleared by the Tottenham Hotspur team doctor, then allowed back on.
Moments later, he can barely stand up. I have great sympathy with the doctor who had to treat Vertonghen in those circumstances.
Jan Vertonghen received extensive medical treatment after a nasty clash against Ajax
The Belgian defender had to be helped from the pitch after attempting to play on
He will have had the player telling him he wants to continue playing. He had his headset on and will have had voices yelling in his ear for updates.
He also has to answer to his manager, Mauricio Pochettino, who wants to know if he has to make a change. And then he has 60,000 supporters shouting at him as well. The problem football is facing is that it is simply not possible for a club doctor to be totally objective.
Imagine you are the Barcelona team doctor, it is the Champions League final, and Lionel Messi goes down.
Would you be brave enough to bring him off? That is why football – and any sport when it comes to brain damage – must use independent doctors. There must be an unbiased person who has not been employed by either club and can say whether a player needs taking off or not.
There were serious fears about Vertonghen’s safety as he lay in an awkward position
He or she must have final say rather than the current protocol which sees club doctors make the ultimate decision. Football finds itself in a mess at the moment.
There is a suggestion a ‘temporary substitution’ could be introduced but 10 minutes is nowhere near enough time to rule out concussion.
I’ve seen cases where, even 24 hours later, patients are vomiting or suffering from severe headaches but they were fine in the immediate aftermath of the accident. The bottom line is, if they is any hint of concussion, the player must be taken off the pitch and not return.