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English football tightens concussion guidelines, club doctors have final say on head injuries

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LONDON - Club doctors will have the final say on whether a player stays on the pitch after a head injury during English Premier League matches as part of new guidelines on concussion introduced for the new season.

Regulations for the management of concussion have been tightened up by the English Football Association, with players now forced off the field of play and not allowed to return if there has been a "confirmed or suspected period of loss of consciousness."

In a high-profile incident last season, Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was allowed to return to the pitch by coach Andre Villas-Boas during a Premier League match against Everton after appearing to lose consciousness when he was struck on the head by an opponent's knee.

"Managers, players and clubs need to understand the risks associated with head injuries," said Dr. Ian Beasley, chairman of The FA's medical committee.

"The advice of medical professionals is key in this area, and whilst we have developed processes to deal with many types of injury this is an area that has perhaps needed some more scrutiny."

Previously, the decision of the team doctor wasn't final when determining whether or not a player who has sustained a head injury was fit to continue playing or training.

Questions were raised during the World Cup about the management of concussion, with Uruguay defender Alvaro Pereira lying motionless for a short while and appearing to be briefly unconscious after being hit in the head by an England opponent's knee. Uruguay's team doctor appeared to want Pereira to be substituted, only to seemingly change his mind after the player furiously protested.

Germany midfielder Christoph Kramer took a heavy blow to face early in the final against Argentina but played on, only to be replaced 17 minutes later after slumping to the ground. Kramer appeared to be disorientated as he was helped off the field by medical staff.

Under the new regulations announced by the English FA on Tuesday, clubs are to have a member of their medical team dedicated to looking after players with head injuries, while all players are now required to undergo "preseason baseline cognitive testing" every season to detect any risk that may exist through previous injury.

A campaign on head injury treatment is being accompanied by an education program, and presentations about concussion management will be made to players ahead of the new season.

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