KEIR RADNEDGE in LONDON: FIFA’s medical supremo has complimented Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho for his reaction to the head injury suffered by goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois last weekend.
Belgian Michel D’Hooghe, a long-serving member of the FIFA executive member and the world federation’s medical committee, happened to be speaking, by coincidence, at Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge, at the Leaders Sport Summit.
Confusion arose because Courtois was allowed to play on after a 90second examination for a head injury suffered in a collision with the Arsenal forward Alexis Sanchez. Ten minutes he had to be substituted.
The time factor appeared to contradict the new advice issued by FIFA at the start of the month that a game should be halted for three minutes to allow for assessment by the team doctor.
However D’Hooghe clarified that the FIFA advice was for an examination taking up to three minutes but he, personally, would like a full three-minute halt to be mandatory worldwide.
“Legally we cannot enforce this on federations and leagues,” said D’Hooghe, “but perhaps we can do it in the legal through either through FIFA Congress or, perhaps better, through the International Football Association Board.”
He did believe that Chelsea had dealt with the Courtois incident properly and added: “A compliment to Mr Mourinho because he said this was only a medical matter and that is totally correct. So well done to him.”
D’Hooghe reviewed the history of FIFA’s concern about concussion stretching back over studies and conferences since 2003. He accepted that FIFA’s rules had been shown as inadequate by five instances of possible concussion at the World Cup finals in Brazil.
That had prompted the latest crackdown taken with the approval of the FIFA medical committee and enacted by both the world federation and UEFA.
D’Hooghe conceded: “Top sport is not always 100pc healthy. If you plkay at a high level your risk of early arthritis is higher than someone who leads a sedentary life but we have to take care of players also thinking about the long term because there are too many consequences which could be avoided.”
He was comparatively relaxed about a legal action being brought in the United States by parents concerned about the cumulative concussive risks of young players heading the ball.
D’Hooghe said: “In FIFA we are used to legal cases and now we have a court case brought by mothers in America. It appears that, if the [heading] technique taught by the youth trainers is correct then we will have no problems and, if necessary, we will present these studies.”
* Leaders Business Summit at Chelsea FC, Stamford Bridge, London
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