The brain injury charity Headway has questioned the decision to allow Harry Maguire to continue playing for Manchester United after a head collision and warned about the management of in-game impacts in football.
Maguire went down with less than a minute played at Fulham on Saturday after clashing heads with Rodrigo Muniz, and appeared to have sustained a cut above his eye.
The England defender played on after treatment but the referee, John Brooks, questioned Maguire’s condition after 58 minutes, and United physios again assessed the defender. Maguire finished the game as United won 1-0, and he later told MUTV he had passed concussion protocols, saying: “The doctor did all the tests, I knew where I was and I was answering all the questions and I completed them thankfully [head injury protocols].”
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But Headway says the sight of Brooks’ intervention when Maguire appeared to be in difficulty was “deeply concerning”, and the organisation has warned progress made over the past decade to improve the health of players is at risk due to football’s failure to manage in-game head injuries.
“The incident with Harry Maguire is concerning for a number of reasons,” said Luke Griggs, chief executive of Headway. “An opponent’s shoulder strikes the side of his head; minutes later he goes down on his haunches, showing clear signs of discomfort.
“After a brief on-pitch assessment – again highlighting the nonsensical lack of temporary concussion substitutes in football – he was allowed to continue. The sight of the referee then having to intervene in the second half when the player continued to look in difficulty was deeply concerning. But again, after another brief assessment with medics, he was again allowed to play on.
“We are not privy to the discussions with his medical team, nor should their professionalism be questioned. This is an issue with the very culture of football and its stubborn refusal to put players’ health above all else – including the result of a game.
“Every time the ‘if in doubt, sit it out’ principle is seen to be ignored in elite level football, our chances of educating younger players and better protecting future generations from short and long-term brain injury is diminished. Temporary concussion substitutions would immediately help return some credibility to the process, but an evolution of attitude is urgently needed.”
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Griggs added, however, that attitudes to concussion have changed over the past decade. He said: “We have come such a long way since Hugo Lloris was labelled a ‘hero’ for over-ruling club medics to return to the pitch after a clear concussion while playing for Spurs against Everton in 2013. That shocking incident was a wake-up call for football. We called it ‘dangerous and irresponsible’ at the time, demanding it be used as a catalyst for change.
“That change has been a slow process, but attitudes have changed. Promises were made, such as the concept of players being immediately removed from play if there is any suspicion of concussion.”