Sunday 17 December 2017

Martin Breheny: Real danger 'concussion rule' would be exploited

GPA chief Dessie Farrell had the welfare of players at heart when he said that including a 'concussion rule' in the GAA rulebook might be worth considering.

It would allow a player who took a heavy knock to the head to be replaced without the change counting as one of the five permitted subs. That system has applied under the 'blood sub' rule for over a decade.

At a time when the potential danger to players in all sports who suffer concussion is a hot topic, Farrell's comments were interesting, as was his reference to blood injuries being easier to identify than concussion.

"It (concussion) is not as evident as a blood injury and the argument will be, well, could it be used to just replace a player," he said.

It's a fair point. Would managers use a 'concussion rule' to increase the number of replacements?

Most players take a knock to the head at some stage of a game and while it might not be especially serious, who could second guess a manager if he replaced him?

However, it would enable a manager to replace an under-performing player without using one of the five permitted subs. It might seem perverse to suggest that anyone would indulge in such chicanery, but, sadly, precedent does help the case for defence.

The blood sub rule, which had Dr Con Murphy as a major driving force, was introduced for the soundest of reasons early in the last decade. Prior to its introduction, doctors were forced into rapid repair work on the sideline, with the bloodied player urging them to hurry so that he could return to the action.

That stopped once the blood sub rule was introduced. However, because there is no time limit on how long a player can be off the pitch for blood injury treatment, it's open to exploitation.

Indeed, there have been cases of players being absent for 30-40 minutes, with the replacements not counting as official subs.

Obviously, a player suspected of suffering from concussion would not be allowed back on, but the question arises: would all of those replaced under the rule be genuine cases?

And if they weren't, would it not make a mockery of a rule introduced purely for safety reasons?

Irish Independent

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