To take an increasingly professional approach to dealing with head injuries in the future and reduce the resulting risks for players, baseline screening will be introduced as a mandatory requirement for the players of all 36 clubs of the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 as of the coming 2019-20 season. The DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga is thereby following a recommendation of the medical commission of the German Football Association (DFB).
During the assessment of an acute head injury, team doctors working within football are faced with the question of whether the injury has resulted in a deviation from the “norm” in terms of the health of the affected player. Baseline screening is helpful in such cases. The basis of the neurological screening that is performed before each season as part of the annual examination to determine the player’s current medical status – in other words, the baseline – comprises SCAT5 tests (SCAT = Sport Concussion Assessment Tool).
Further support for diagnosis
These tests examine the various sub-areas of brain function, including properties such as balance and memory. Deviations from the baseline established prior to a season help to make a diagnosis and decide whether an affected player should return to the pitch. Athletes should be brought back into play only when their test results correspond to the baseline. Referees are informed that matches can be interrupted for longer periods for such treatment – for up to three minutes, in accordance with internationally agreed guidelines.
“The DFL and the clubs understand their duty of care to players’ health,” says Andreas Nagel, DFL Director of Sport & Grassroots Football, adding, “Acute head injuries present a risk for athletes of which clubs and doctors are regularly made aware. With the mandatory introduction of baseline screening, we are taking an increasingly professional approach to how we deal with head injuries in football as well as establishing a uniform standard for the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2.”
Prof. Tim Meyer, chairman of the DFB’s medical commission explains, “Our goal is to treat acute head injuries, such as those resulting from a collision, in a professional manner. We may not have experienced a significant increase in head injuries in recent years, but baseline screening should facilitate the work of team doctors and thereby ensure optimal medical care for players.”
Technical aids allowed since the 2018-19 season
This is also helped by the fact that technical aids and electronic communication have been allowed in the Bundesliga and Bundesliga 2 on both benches in the technical zone for coaching and tactical purposes as well as to help injured players since the start of the 2018-19 season. This innovation was agreed at the time by the DFL Board at the recommendation of the DFL Football Commission, which also consists of club officials. From a medical perspective, this enables faster diagnosis and communication, for example between team staff treating an injured professional on the pitch, and colleagues on the bench.