Leeds United have defended their treatment of defender Robin Koch who stayed on the field after a sickening clash of heads in the Whites’ defeat to Manchester United.
The club issued a statement on Monday, insisting concussion protocols were followed after the collision with United’s Scott McTominay early in the match at Elland Road.
However, Koch, 25, sat down 15 minutes after receiving treatment, which involved heavy strapping to his head after he received a deep cut above his eye, and being given the OK to carry on. He was substituted at that point.
Leeds United’s Robin Koch suffered a sickening clash of heads with Scott McTominay
Koch received treatment on the pitch for five minutes.
The incident, in Leeds’ 4-2 loss to Manchester United, has provoked a sharp reaction for the Professional Footballers’ Association, which claimed the event demonstrated that concussion rules in elite football are failing players.
Football Association guidelines state that any player who sustains a suspected concussion should immediately be removed from the pitch, and extra permanent substitutions are allowed in such cases. But the PFA believes temporary substitutions to allow players to be fully evaluated before a decision is made about them returning to play are needed.
Leeds have also voiced their support for temporary substitutions.
The defender received extensive treatment for a head wound while on the pitch
‘Leeds United can confirm that following a clash of heads, Robin Koch passed all of the on-field concussion screening tests that are currently part of the Premier League protocols,’ the club said in a statement.
‘The player was told if he developed any symptoms he should sit down on the field of play and would be substituted immediately, which is what Robin did in the 29th minute of the game.
‘The medical staff at Leeds United have always been in favour of temporary substitutions for head injuries, as it would allow the staff more time to assess an injury and allow a period for symptoms to potentially develop.’
The Leeds player played on for 15 minutes before he sat down and was taken off
Leeds said the German centre-back will now follow the concussion protocols before returning to play.
The argument in favour of temporary concussion substitutes is to give medical teams time to assess a player more thoroughly in a calm, off-field environment, while the game can continue with no numerical advantage to the opposition.
Temporary substitutes are commonly used in rugby.
In a statement also released on Monday, the PFA said: ‘The injury to Leeds United’s Robin Koch demonstrates again that the current concussion protocols within football are failing to prioritise player safety,’ it said. ‘The ‘if in doubt, sit them out’ protocol is not being applied consistently within the pressurised environment of elite competitive football.
Manchester United came out on top, eventually winning a thrilling match at Elland Road 4-2
‘We see frequent incidents of players returning to play with a potential brain injury, only to be removed shortly afterwards once symptoms visibly worsen. As the representative voice of players in England, we have been clear to The IFAB [International Football Association Board, the law-making body] that we want to see the introduction of temporary concussion substitutes.’
Koch was left covered in blood after a clash with Scott McTominay early in the match. He had to change his shirt and shorts at the side of the pitch because they had been splattered with the blood.
Interestingly, Leeds chose to make a regulation substitution when Kock eventually left the field on the half-hour mark.
They could have invoked the new concussion substitution rule, which would have meant Leeds could have replaced Koch without taking up one of their allowed changes.
Manchester United gave away a two-goal lead at Elland Road, before running out 4-2 winners
Manchester United legend Gary Neville was among the first to question the decision to allow Koch to play on. During commentary on Sky Sports, he said: ‘Koch is down again now, he took a big whack earlier, and it was a big whack.
‘He’s making blinking signs with his hands, which begs the question why he was allowed to play on in the first place.
‘He’s coming off now and I don’t know if he’s going to come back. On.
The German international has thanked Leeds’ medical staff ‘for the good care’ in a message posted on Twitter.
Leeds scored twice in 24 seconds at the start of the second-half, but it was not enough
Koch said: ‘Thank you for your many messages. I wanted to support the team for longer yesterday, but unfortunately I couldn’t do it. Thanks to our medical staff for the good care. I feel much better today and will be back soon.’
Following the match, Leeds United manager, Marcelo Bielsa, said Koch’s substitution was due to the cut, rather than the force of the blow to the player’s head.
‘He had a cut in his head and what excludes him or made him come off is the cut,’ the Leeds manager said.
The game lived up to expectations proving to be a bruising, enthralling encounter in terrible conditions.
Manchester United midfielder Scott McTominay has showed off some nasty ankle scars
Scotland international midfielder McTominay got stuck in from the off and in a post on Instagram captioned ‘Leeds away – proper game’, the 25-year-old posted a photo of his ankle with numerous fresh scars following the contest.
Sportsmail columnist Chris Sutton, whose father, Mike, a former professional footballer, died with dementia in 2020, wrote on Twitter: ‘Football doesn’t care about its players. What needs to happen before the concussion procedure changes?’
Sutton and Sportsmail launched a campaign in November 2020, saying ‘enough is enough’ and demanding football acts to protect players from the risk of dementia and properly supports those who have been affected. The football authorities have felt the pressure and they are acting, but change is coming too slowly.
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