FA Cup set to introduce concussion substitute trial this season

The FA is to fast track trials of concussion substitutes in this season’s FA Cup, following their approval by an expert International FA Board panel.

An Ifab committee has given its assent to the use of additional permanent substitutes in the event of a player being concussed. The recommendation will go before Ifab chiefs at their annual business meeting next month.

It is expected that trials will be approved without reservation and the English FA, which holds a seat on the Ifab board, quickly revealed its support for the plans. A spokesperson said: “The FA will support the proposal at the meeting on 16 December with a view to implementing the trials at the earliest possible stages of the FA Cup and Women’s FA Cup.”

Trials of concussion substitutes had been expected to be implemented last season but the Covid-19 pandemic caused a suspension of the plans.

There remain some doubts as to whether the Premier League, alongside other major European domestic leagues, will agree to trials this season. Competitions are understood to be waiting for further details before taking action, with concerns remaining over the legal ramifications should the trials go wrong.

The FA has taken a more proactive approach and it follows an intervention earlier this year to ban players under the age of 12 from heading the ball in training. Further changes for youngsters seem likely and the FA has also committed greater funding to research into the links between heading the ball and neurodegenerative conditions.

Concussion substitutes would not relate specifically to heading but to head injuries more broadly. The specific scheme as recommended by Ifab would see an extra permanent substitute granted to a team who had assessed a player to be at risk of concussion.

An alternative to the permanent substitution would be a temporary one, as practised in rugby union. It is understood Ifab rejected this option, believing that because a number of concussion symptoms do not emerge until at least half an hour after an incident doctors may decide a player is fit to return to play and run the risk of a potentially highly damaging repeat injury to the head.

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