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Football authorities 'putting players' lives at risk' over concussion, says MP

By Alain Tolhurst and George Ryan, Press Association Political Staff

Football authorities are "putting players' lives at risk" by failing to tackle concussion in the sport properly, a Labour MP has claimed.

Chris Bryant (Rhondda) led a backbench debate in the Commons on "acquired brain injuries", which he called a "hidden epidemic", revealing someone is admitted to hospital with one every 90 seconds in the UK.

He said that "sport is good for you and I don't want to stop anyone playing sport", but added that the "the record on sports concussion is shockingly bad in particular in relation to football".

Highlighting high-profile incidents this season involving Liverpool striker Mo Salah and Tottenham Hotspur's Jan Vertonghen, he said there have been "very dubious decisions by on-pitch medics".

Mr Bryant said governing body Fifa's rules that only allow a three-minute window for medics to assess whether a player has suffered a concussion are "nowhere near enough".

Unlike rugby, which allows for a substitution to be made while a head injury assessment takes place off-field, in football "all the incentive is to get the player back on and playing as fast as possible" he explained.

The MP added: "So let me be very, very clear to the football authorities; football is failing its players.

"It is giving a terrible message to youngsters, to parents and to amateur coaches.

"They are putting players' lives at risk, and if they don't get their house in order they will face massive class actions in the courts and we will have to legislate to protect players from, frankly, what is an industrial injury."

Later in the debate, Labour MP Carolyn Harris (Swansea East) called on the gambling industry to do more and to work alongside brain injury specialists to provide support for those who suffer brain trauma and go on to develop gambling problems.

She raised the case of a constituent called George who acquired a brain injury after a single punch attack outside a night club.

The injury caused him to suffer from psychological and physiological difficulties, which included developing an addiction to gambling.

Ms Harris said: "George very quickly became addicted, making frequent and significant deposits with a wide variety of online gambling platforms.

"The result is that George has lost all of his compensation as well as money he obtained by taking out additional loans and credit cards.

"At one point he gambled and lost, and this is breathtaking, £67,000 in just 40 minutes.

"He is now at least £15,000 in debt and with no income, he has no way of meeting these liabilities.

"George is not alone.

"Researchers identified that brain injury survivors are 27% more likely to develop problem gambling or addiction than the general population."