HOLYWOOD, Northern Ireland (AP) — Concussion substitutes could be trialled in soccer at the Tokyo Olympics, FIFA President Gianni Infantino said ahead of a meeting of the game's lawmakers on Saturday.
The International Football Association Board has been assessing studies into the prevalence of former footballers suffering from dementia and how the sport can address concerns about the long-term impact of head injuries.
"This is a subject that needs to be discussed more and trialled as well," Infantino said on Friday. "Personally I believe more in permanent (substitutes) than temporary. That's my personal view. Maybe it's important there are trials before next season.
“We have the Olympic Games for example where we could, as FIFA, trial something like that and see what happens.”
The Associated Press first reported this month about the prospect of trials with concussion substitutes.
The English Premier League proposed that the current three-minute period to assess players for concussion would be used to determine if a head injury replacement is required. The world players' union, FIFPRO, believes a longer period of up to 10 minutes is required, which could mean temporary substitutes are necessary.
Teams are currently allowed a maximum of three substitutes in the 90 minutes.
“We need to protect the health of the players above everything else,” Infantino said. “So if you can take one out and the team can bring somebody else in, I think that makes sense. We should trial that and see what the consequences are, intended or unintended, but we need to protect players.”
A Scottish study published last year found former professional players there were less likely to die of common causes such as heart disease and cancer compared with the general population but more likely to die with dementia.
A reaction to that study was a ban being introduced on children up to the age of 12 from heading a soccer ball in training sessions in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
“We have to take it very seriously,” Infantino said. “Obviously the data we have is still very little compared to other sports so we need to do some more work in this respect. "
FIFA holds half of the eight IFAB votes, with the others held by the English, Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh Football Associations. Six members of the IFAB board have to approve any changes to the laws of the game.
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