Concussion spotters to be introduced at World Cup

Concussion spotters will be introduced at next year's World Cup in Qatar to help make football's treatment of head injuries an "awful lot safer".

It comes over increased concerns that repeated concussions could lead to long-term health problems like dementia.

FIFA: introducing concussion spotters Credit: PA Images

Ex-Norwich City striker Chris Sutton has been campaigning for the football authorities to take action over the issue, following the death of his father from the condition.

  • Watch an extended interview with Chris Sutton speaking about his father's condition shortly before his death

Former City players Goss and Roberts taking part in study

Research has already shown that footballers are more likely to develop dementia, and ex-Norwich duo Iwan Roberts and Jeremy Goss have recently backed a £1 million study at the University of East Anglia which will test players for early signs of the disease.

Now FIFA is to introduce extra protections for players at the game's biggest competition.

It plans to place spotters in the stands at games and tasked with identifying possible brain injuries which may have been missed by medical staff on the touchline.

Team doctors will also be able to watch video replays at all FIFA tournaments to look for signs of concussion, according to the governing body's medical director Andrew Massey.

"Often in football matches you miss these, even if you're sitting on the front row," Massey said in an interview on FIFA's YouTube channel.

  • Watch the interview below

The use of concussion spotters in Qatar will be a first at a major international football tournament. They are already in use in the NFL and rugby union and were previously trialled during FIFA's Club World Cup.

While the news will be welcomed by campaigners - who've longe been calling for additional measures to protect players - it might still be considered as a first step.

Sutton, who still lives in Norfolk, is calling for a seven point charter to be adopted to give players greater protections. It would include dementia being treated as an industrial disease, limiting heading within the game and introducing concussion substitutes.

The family of former England and West Brom striker Jeff Astle began campaigning on the issue following his death from the disease in 2002.

In 2016 former Colchester United and Ipswich Town player Bobby Hunt spoke about having the illness. The 74-year-old played in the 1960s when footballs were harder and heavier than those used in the modern game.

Former Norwich City players, centre back Duncan Forbes and Martin Peters and former Cambridge and Peterborough boss Chris Turner have also died from the disease.

A parliamentary inquiry into the link between sport and long-term brain injury is being launched. 

the announcement came just weeks after former Northampton Saints rugby player Steve Thompson revealed he's taking legal action after being diagnosed with early onset dementia