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Concussion on the pitch

Concussion on the pitch

When Raul Jimenez suffered from a serious head injury, doctors told him it was a miracle he even survived. But now, he’s back playing on the pitch again. So what’s changed since for concussion in football?


Transcript

Chloe Beresford: Hi, I’m Chloe and this is the Playmaker.

One story every day to make sense of the world of football. 

Today, the return of Raul Jimenez after a life-threatening head injury.

***

Conor Coady: “He’s with the right people, and that’s the most important thing, but we just hope and pray that he’s OK because he’s the one we’re thinking about right now… “

Reporter: “You were one of the first on the scene. Did you just know from the way he landed, from the sound, that he’s in trouble here?”

Conor Coady: “Yeah, massively. And I was at the front, just behind him so I jumped with them as well and you hear it and as they dropped… obviously he was on his side… and I think it was important we kept him on his side… do you know what I mean…that…and you get the doctors on and different things but…Listen it’s just something you never want to see with one of our team-mates, or with anyone in the Premier League because that’s what can happen. So I hope and I pray…that everything’s OK cos like I say…he’s the one thing that matters today.”

Conor Coady speaking to Sky Sports Football

Raul Jimenez is a really popular figure among the Wolves fans. Since arriving from Benfica in 2018, he’s scored 48 goals for the club.

“Jimenez shoots, Jimenez scores! Raul Jimenez scores! Oh my word what a moment! And sheer pandemonium at Molineux! Would you believe this? The Mexican sensation comes up with the goods again!”

Commentary from Wolves’ YouTube channel

And just days ago, the Mexican striker made a long-awaited return from a serious head injury. Doctors had told him it was a ‘miracle’ he even survived. 

The story – of what this player has had to overcome – is remarkable. 

Let’s travel back to November last year. The pandemic meant that stands were empty. Jimenez and his wife Daniela had only recently had their first child, Aria.

As the striker came down from an attempt to head the ball, he clashed with Arsenal defender David Luiz. Luke Hatfield – from the Wolverhampton Express and Star – was there when it happened. He told me this…

“I remember watching that game live and the noise was absolutely horrendous, it was really a grim injury… He was rushed to hospital and had to undergo surgery for a fractured skull and you still see the scars to this day.”

Luke Hatfield, Wolverhampton Express and Star

Jimenez needed to get to hospital – quickly and safely. 

And just like when Denmark international Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest on the pitch during the Euros, players and medics on the pitch did just that. 

He made it to hospital, got the treatment he needed, and survived. But that was only the first challenge the striker had to overcome.

***

By mid-January, Jimenez was back in the stadium for a match with Everton, sporting a frankly shocking scar that runs right down the side of his head. 

He’d been working hard on cognitive rehabilitation and fitness work. 

And throughout his tough rehab, he’d seen an outpouring of love from football fans across the world.

But the question was always going to linger, whether Jimenez would ever have the confidence to head the ball again. 

You wouldn’t have blamed him if the whole experience meant he stepped away from football altogether. That was never part of the plan for this player, though.

Little by little, through gradually building up resistance – heading first foam balls, and slowly increasing to full size footballs, Jimenez put himself back together. 

And that’s meant everything to Wolves fans.

“For Wolves, I think the hope is that he can recapture the form that really saw him shine at Molineux under Nuno, but in general I think the world of football is just pleased to see Jimenez back on a football pitch running around and playing the game he loves so well, so fingers crossed we’ll see him back to his best soon.”

Luke Hatfield,
Wolverhampton Express and Star

Last year the Football Association revised its concussion protocols. They were under pressure from their overseeing body, due to increasing evidence that ex-players were suffering from dementia in later life due to repeated heading of the ball.

So, regardless of the number of substitutes already used, teams are allowed up to two extra APCs – that’s additional permanent concussion substitutions – per game.

These will only be made available if the tunnel doctor sees clear video evidence of a head injury on a replay, or if the player shows clinical signs of concussion. 

The opposition will also be granted an extra substitution so that neither side gains an advantage.

The FA have recognised that head injuries are a serious threat to the health of the footballers, as the story of Raul Jimenez has shown.

He’ll have to play with a specially designed head guard in order to protect the injury site for the rest of his career. 

The Premier League was the first competition in the world of football to introduce concussion substitutes. With player safety so clearly on the line, it’s surely time the rest of the sport followed.

Today’s episode was written by Chloe Beresford, and produced by Imy Harper.