Head injury in sport is a serious issue. As our understanding around the long-term effects of head injuries improves, it is becoming clearer that more needs to be done combat the issue.
Protocols have been brought in in numerous sports to ensure the health of those who play it. Rugby has made a big effort in this regard, while football have also changed their laws. Concussions are now being taken very seriously, which makes this incident from last night all the more ridiculous.
Wales took on Croatia in a Euro 2020 Qualifier in Cardiff, a game which would eventually finish 1-1. However, the main talking point surrounding game was an incident involving Daniel James.
The Manchester United winger went down in the 14th minute of the game, where it looked like he had been knocked out cold after a bang to the head. The player looked to be completely unconscious on the ground and it worried players around him.
It then appeared that he had not been affected by the incident and was running around as normal a couple of minutes later.
"I didn't get knocked out, fortunately."
Wales and Manchester United winger Daniel James went down after a heavy challenge in a #EURO2020 qualifier against Croatia, but says he wasn't knocked unconscious: https://t.co/ilmtw8SUBE pic.twitter.com/StsG5q18uk
— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) October 14, 2019
Upon closer inspection, it appears the Croatian player had not made contact with James' head.
After the game, the player himself confirmed he had not been knocked out. Wales manager Ryan Giggs went on to admit the player was fine, and had just been using his nous by pretending to suffer a head injury.
The physio came over but there was no problem. We did all the (concussion) tests at half-time and he was fine.
He stayed down and was a bit streetwise. He told the doctors 'I'm not moving, I'm just sitting still'. Not to get anyone sent off, he was just using his nous.
This is a worrying development. Players faking serious head injuries is not a direction we want to see the game going in, especially when so much has been done to combat the issue in the sport.
If this is what happened here, it is not a good look for Daniel James. This is especially true for a player who has been involved in a couple of (admittedly less serious) instances of diving this season.
On the other hand, if the player did suffer a serious head injury then the incident was certainly not dealt with properly. We doubt it did happen here, but any player who is knocked out must be substituted immediately.
Ryan Mason, who ended his career early due to serious head injury, was perplexed by the incident.
Daniel James was just knocked out unconscious! Yet 3 minutes later he has been allowed back onto the pitch 🤷♂️
— Ryan Mason (@RyanMason) October 13, 2019
Headway, a brain injury service and support network, have also condemned the incident.
They believe James should have received proper treatment if he was indeed injured, but questioned the players judgement if he was faking a serious injury.
Headway chief executive Peter McCabe had this to say:
Although it is argued that concussion protocols were followed, the rules state that if a concussion is suspected a player must be removed from the game.
To all watching, it appeared that Daniel James lost consciousness. Regardless of his manager's comments after the game, this in itself must surely have given enough reason to take a cautious approach.
However, Ryan Giggs' claim that the player was being 'streetwise' by staying down and appearing to have been knocked out is shocking.
If that is the case and James was 'acting', it raises serious questions about the player's understanding of the seriousness of concussion.