Did Chelsea make a mess of this?

Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois suffered a head injury in the game against Arsenal and despite new regulations regarding how such injuries should be handled, the stopper was allowed to continue playing for a further 14 minutes before eventually being substituted. 

Last season there was a game in which Tottenham Hotspur’s Hugo Lloris suffered a similar injury, and despite the medical and touchline staff insisting the player come off amid obvious discomfort and disorientation, the player decided to continue the rest of the game, stubbornly ignoring his own well-being. Lloris later admitted that continuing in that game was a mistake on his behalf and that he was too confused and dazed to remember much of what happened. The new regulations have come into play to avoid such a situation happening again.

Head injuries can be a lot worse than they initially appear to be. Concussion that is left untreated is a serious issue which should not be taken lightly. Goalkeepers face the worst exposure because of the nature of some of the challenges they make, or are made on them, when the ball is in play in the penalty area. The regulations are designed to offer more protection to goalkeepers and ensure that their safety is of genuine importance when such an injury is sustained.

This weekend’s derby between Chelsea and Arsenal provided the first opportunity for us to see the new rules in place when 10 minutes into the game the Chelsea stopper was knocked out by a challenge from Alexis Sanchez. It was completely unintentional and unavoidable, however the collision left Courtois out cold on the deck.

Straight away that should have triggered the Chelsea medical team to get the player stretchered off and sent to hospital to be checked for concussion and treated accordingly, however after the player came back around and had regained his focus and orientation, he was allowed to continue playing. When he was later substituted you could see blood coming out of his ear. Now I am no medical expert but that to me suggests that the injury was serious enough to warrant taking precautions and not letting him continue to play – surely the risk of serious damage or concussion was evident even for the untrained novice to see?

Chelsea defended their actions, saying Courtois, had suffered “a minor cut to the ear” in regards to the blood that could be seen, however the fact that the player hit the deck like a sack of spuds and was knocked out cold should have served well enough to remove him from the field of play immediately.

The new regulations are as follows:

A player suffering a head injury must leave the pitch.

Team managers or coaching staff will no longer decide if a player continues to play. The final decision will be with the club doctor.

Home teams in the Premier League must now have a third “tunnel” doctor on match-days to support doctors for both sides.

The “tunnel” doctor will help to spot potential concussions and watch TV replays to judge the severity of incidents.

All Premier League players will undergo baseline neurological assessments as part of their annual medical check-up to help doctors measure their recovery time if they suffer a concussion.

Despite sending Courtois to hospital after the game and the resulting tests concluding that no major damage had been done, the Chelsea staff have received heavy criticism for not sticking to the above rules properly and deciding against the immediate action of taking the player to hospital as a precaution. That is what these rules are there for and they should be taken a lot more seriously in future after this incident.

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