U.S. Soccer implementing new concussion substitution rule in MLS, NWSL


U.S. Soccer announced on Monday that it will be implementing a new concussion substitution rule aimed at further protecting players who suffer head injuries during games. 

The new rule separates concussion substitutions from other substitutions, and prevents a team from being penalized for removing a player due to a potential head injury. A team can now make two substitutions for players who have left the game due to head injuries, regardless of the total number of substitutions it has already made. Teams typically have three total substitutions, which has been increased to five due to COVID-19. 

According to the Associated Press, officials will now use pink cards to indicate a concussion sub. White cards will still be used for a normal sub and blue cards will still be used for an additional sub. 

All of the professional leagues affiliated with U.S. Soccer have agreed to implement the rule, including Major League Soccer, the National Women’s Soccer League, the National Independent Soccer Association, and the United Soccer League. 

Trials approved in December

According to the press release, the International Football Association Board approved trials of the rule in December 2020, and it was implemented for the very first time in February at the 2021 SheBelieves Cup in Orlando. Trials are expected to continue through August 2022. 

IFAB outlined four reasons why they believe the rule will improve player safety across the board. 

It encourages the removal of a player with a suspected head injury by eliminating the consequences of removing them.

Making it easier to remove players from the game will protect them from sustaining further injuries. 

With no in-game consequences, team medical personnel no longer have to feel pressured to make a quick assessment about the player’s injury.

The rule is designed to be easy to implement at all levels of the game, including soccer that is played without doctors or medically qualified staff on site. 

The implementation of the rule across U.S. Soccer is part of the trials that IFAB approved in December. U.S. Soccer chief medical officer Dr. George Chiampas believes that the rule will improve player safety in an area that the organization has focused on for the last six years. 

Story continues

“Adopting this new rule is an important step as we continue to lead the way in player safety,” Chiampas said in the press release. “It was critical to come together as a sport with our professional leagues and proceed in this pilot program, prioritizing the well-being of our players above all. We’ve worked hard to raise awareness of head injuries in soccer over the last several years, and this change should go a long way in protecting players suspected of suffering a concussion.”

U.S. Soccer is implementing a new rule meant to further protect players who have suffered a concussion during a game. (Photo by Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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