Olympique Lyonnais goalkeeper Anthony Lopes’s injury against Barcelona has exposed failings in the way professional football deals with concussion, the global players’ union FIFPro said on Thursday. Lopes was injured as he dived at the feet of Barcelona’s Philippe Coutinho in the 22nd minute of the round of 16 second leg Champions League match on Wednesday.
Although he initially looked as if he was going off, Lopes remained on the pitch for another 11 minutes before being substituted. In a statement to Reuters, FIFPro said the incident “again highlights failures in the current concussion protocol in professional football”. These failures “risk seriously damaging the health of players”, it added.
FIFPro called for an independent doctor at matches to help decide whether a player with suspected concussion should continue, rather than leaving the decision with team doctors as happens at present. A temporary substitute should be allowed on the field to allow medical staff time to review whether a player has concussion, FIFPro said.
“We are concerned that while such procedures are successfully employed in multiple sports they have not been adopted by professional football,” it added. UEFA’s protocol says the referee should stop the game for up to three minutes to allow the injured player to be assessed by the team doctor. The player can only continue with “specific confirmation by the team doctor to the referee” that he is fit to do so.
UEFA confirmed that this had been followed. “The concussion protocol was respected during the game, as the referee immediately stopped the match after the incident,” it said in a statement.
“The doctor was at no point under time pressure from the referee and was given time to make his medical assessment. The stoppage was much longer than the three minutes mentioned in the protocol.” UEFA said the Lyon doctor informed the referee of his decision to keep the player on the pitch and it was up to the club to explain the decision to allow Lopes to continue.
The Ligue 1 club did not immediately reply to a request for comment. FIFPro’s guidelines warn of the dangers of continuing to play while concussed.
“A second concussion can lead to a dangerous swelling of the brain if a player has not fully recovered from the first concussion,” it says. FIFPro also says concussion can occur without a direct hit on the head, as happened in the case of Lopes who crashed to the ground in the collision with Coutinho and hit his shoulder hard on the pitch.