Professional Footballers Australia (PFA) will deliver concussion education as part of its Player Development Program for all A-League and W-League players for the first time. 

An area of increased focus within player wellbeing, the PFA will provide players with expert concussion education as developed by FIFPRO, the global players representative, to ensure footballers are equipped with an enhanced understanding of how to respond to a concussion event.  

PFA Co-Chief Executive Kathryn Gill said the concussion education would serve as a vital component of the PFA’s annual inductions, which have commenced in the lead up to the A-League and W-League seasons.  

Within the inductions, players are provided with information on the organisation’s wellbeing – which now includes a concussion module, education, retirement and transition and financial literacy services. 

“The game has a duty of care to our players and given that the spectrum of health impacts related to concussion and head trauma in football are still emerging, we need to ensure our players are educated on the associated risks of this type of injury,” Gill said. 

“Concussions, like many other injuries, are often unavoidable in football, but with the right information, players, staff and officials have the know how to respond immediately in the acute phase of a head injury. 

“This education will empower the players to make important decisions in relation to themselves, their teammates and their opponents, by clearly outlining the importance of recognising, reporting and removing concussed players, even when the players themselves may want to continue.” 

The education will focus on outlining the five main clusters of symptoms; physical, emotional, cognitive, sleep disturbance and balance.  

FIFPRO developed an educational toolkit in 2019 after consulting professional players, unions and concussion experts, including medical specialists from other sports, which unanimously recommended to focus on ‘the three R’s’: 

  • Recognise a possible concussion in a teammate or opponent; 
  • Report a suspected concussion to the coaching and medical staff; and 
  • Remove any player with a suspected concussion from the field. 

FIFPRO’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Vincent Gouttebarge, who is also part of the Concussion Expert Group of the International Football Association Board (IFAB), said the PFA continues to proactively address player health and safety concerns. 

“An essential aspect to elevate the concussion standards in football is education, which includes education of the players as well as education of players’ entourage,” Dr. Gouttebarge said. 

“FIFPRO’s educational material, articulated around “Recognise, Report, Remove”, provides players with a better understanding how to recognise concussions and what to do in the case of a suspected concussion; namely that it must be reported to the medical team and that the player potentially concussed must be removed from the field.  

“The PFA has always been proactive when it comes to the health and safety of players. The education of their members about concussion is an additional element to the PFA’s arsenal towards the protection and promotion of players’ wellbeing.” 

Football’s lawmaking body IFAB announced on Thursday that planned trials have been approved for concussion substitutions from January 2021. 

PFA research reveals that across the past five A-League and W-League seasons, 11 and 10 concussions were sustained across the two competitions, leading to 14 and 40 matches missed by players affected, respectively.