James Drake Comments on How We Can Protect Footballer Health Following Eric Bailly’s FA Cup Head Injuries

The Drake Foundation’s sports-concussion research proves that we need to take injuries like Eric Bailly’s more seriously.

James Drake has spent the last six years campaigning for sports professionals to receive improved medical support for head injuries, which can lead to neurodegenerative defects. His philanthropic organisation, The Drake Foundation, funds scientific research into sports-related concussions to identify how we can protect players from long-term neurological decline. Since launching the Foundation in 2014, James Drake has funded seven major research studies into the effects of sports-related head injuries, each of which highlights worrying health risks and emphasises that football medical practices need to change.

The government was set to evaluate sports-related legislation changes in line with The Drake Foundation’s findings, but COVID-19 has delayed trials for these developments. As a result, football has been urged to immediately introduce temporary concussion substitutes when players suffer head injuries.

Following the call for temporary substitutes, Eric Bailly sustained two head injuries in Manchester United’s 2020 FA Cup semi-final match against Chelsea. Bailly first suffered a head injury in a collision with Chelsea defender Kurt Zouma. He was cleared and able to continue after 90 seconds but then suffered a second blow in a collision with Harry Maguire just four minutes later.


The Call for Change in Sports Legislation

Though Manchester United’s medical team has been praised for Bailly’s medical care, campaigners are calling for a change in legislation that will enable doctors to have more assessment time during matches. While rugby and other sports allow ten-minute head-injury assessments and temporary substitutions, football medics are expected to decide whether a player is safe to continue within three minutes. James Drake stresses that three minutes isn’t enough; head injuries can have dangerous effects that often aren’t immediately apparent. More steps need to be taken to prioritise the health and wellbeing of players.

‘It was a head injury to Hugo Lloris in November 2013 that convinced me to start The Drake Foundation,’ says James Drake. ‘It’s depressing to see how little progress has been made since then. It is clear to me that football has to evolve further in its diagnoses and treatment of head injuries.’

‘Concussion is notoriously difficult to diagnose and can be delayed in its presentation,’ adds Peter McCabe, Chief Executive of Headway. ‘If concussion substitutes were an option, the player could have been assessed in an appropriate environment off the pitch for an extended period of time, thus reducing the risk of a second, more serious head injury.’

As a result of the FA Cup incident, FIFA will allow concussion substitutes at the Olympic Games. FIFA says that it remains ‘committed’ to trials and will make permanent substitutes, instead of using temporary replacements.

‘FIFA introduced the new rule to allow for five substitutes to be used as the football programme was restarted,’ says McCabe. ‘It is therefore hard to understand why a similar change cannot be made regarding concussion substitutes without delay in order to safeguard players’ health.’

‘FIFA will continue working with the International Football Association Board (IFAB) to move forward on this matter as soon as the general situation allows us to do so,’ adds a FIFA spokesperson.


The Drake Foundation’s Concussion Research

Founded by James Drake, The Drake Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation that marries sports, science, and society through cutting-edge research that redefines safe sports practice, particularly involving concussions and other head injuries.

The Drake Foundation’s groundbreaking studies include:

The Foundation is committed to protecting the health of current and retired sports professionals and funds scientific research to uncover hidden health trends. The Drake Foundation raises awareness of brain health, helping society to understand how we can protect against long-term neurodegenerative defects, such as dementia, that can stem from sports injuries.

Learn more about The Drake Foundation’s research into football-related concussions at www.drakefoundation.org.

Connect with The Drake Foundation on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date with research developments.


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