Usually I only hear mention of head injuries in football when people say I must have one for supporting Arsenal.
The Gunners recently played Wolves and the unnerving sound of David Luiz and Raúl Jiménez’s heads coming together sent shockwaves through the footballing world. We know now that Jiménez is in hospital recovering from a fractured skull. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing when Luiz came back onto the pitch with a bloody bandage wrapped around his head for the rest of the first half.
Suddenly I had flashbacks to a photo of Terry Butcher, where the white of his England shirt turned bright red from the blood falling out of his gaping head wound. Obviously, Luiz’s wasn’t quite as bad as this, but even Butcher himself has now urged players to not be as stupid as he was, insisting there is nothing ‘macho’ about playing on with a potentially life-threatening head injury.
The list of footballing legends that have died from dementia in recent years seems to be rising at an alarming rate. As a result, teams of lawyers are working on behalf of former players to establish whether or not the sport has done enough to protect them.
The litigation process is still in the very early stages but many believe that there is a huge lack of support for former players and their families when it comes to brain injuries.
The PFA have recently announced that an advisory task force is being created to examine brain-related illnesses in football. FA-funded research has already shown that male footballers are three-and-a-half times more likely than the average man to suffer from dementia.
Personally, the most worrying thing about the Luiz/ Jiménez collision is that, in spite of the latest head injury protocol being followed correctly, Luiz was deemed safe to continue. This is the same man who was then forced to come off at half time because he was struggling to head the ball. How can that be right?
Ryan Mason was forced to retire at 26 after nearly losing his life after a similar clash back in 2017. Last week, 3-and-a-half years after sustaining his injury, he said that he believed that almost nothing has changed.
Mason has appealed to the governing bodies to start putting players’ health first, rather than the restart of the match, or the good of the team.
Concussion substitutes are one solution that seems to have the growing support of the footballing community. Mason has repeatedly called for a system that allows this. I, for one, would absolutely love to see it.