Major League Soccer (MLS) will join other North American leagues to participate in a pilot project to enable concussion substitutions starting in the 2021 season.
The International Football Association Board (IFAB), which sets the rules for the sport, approved the project last December. It is expected to continue until August 31, 2022.
Under the draft, teams will be allowed to make up to two substitutions per game to substitute players with suspected concussion.
These two substitutions will be in addition to the five that are already authorized due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Normally, each team can replace three players during a match.
“Our priority is to make sure players have a safer environment to play in,” said Jeff Agoos, vice president of competition with MLS.
It is our role to be pioneers in this matter and to put the health and safety of players ahead of everything else in our league.
Jeff Agoos, VP Competition in MLS
Changes authorized due to concussion may be made even if the player in question has returned to the court.
If a team uses a concussion substitution, then the opposing club will receive an additional substitution beyond the normal five substitutions.
The technical staff of each club will be responsible for designating the type of replacement by providing the fourth official with the replacement card in the appropriate color: white for a normal replacement, pink for a concussion replacement and blue for an additional replacement.
Agoos revealed that in MLS there will be additional resources deployed to determine if a concussion substitution is necessary.
« If a player is injured, obviously medical personnel will be called into the field for an evaluation, » Agoos told The Associated Press. If it is a head injury, the on-site medical director can come and assess the player. At the same time, we have an independent group of people [observateurs], similar to some other sports, which review the game video and can then send that video to the fourth official where the medical director on duty can do a more in-depth evaluation. »
The initiative will take effect when the regular season opens in MLS on April 16.
The concussion rule was in effect at the SheBelieves Cup in February. And this new protocol could be used during the next Olympic Games, this summer in Tokyo. FIFA is continuing to reflect on this.
The English Premier League has allowed the use of substitutes for concussions since early February. West Ham United’s Issa Diop became the first player replaced with a suspected concussion during an FA Cup game against Manchester United on February 9.