Seven Premier League matches were played on Saturday, and 24 goals were scored, but the major talking point at the end of the day was the red card handed to Premier League player of the month and Liverpool forward Sadio Mané for a high-footed, studs up lunge on Manchester City goalkeeper Ederson.
While Mané’s challenge was, as he reaffirmed on his Instagram page after the match, completely unintentional, and Ederson didn’t suffer any major injuries, the City goalkeeper remained on the ground for nine minutes before being stretchered off and taken to hospital. The incident was one of many examples in recent years that explained the effort that the FA has placed into attempting to act against head injuries over the years.
Ian Beasley, part of the FA committee that developed new guidelines, explained the motives behind changing head-related incidents in football to The Associated Press.
“Things happen on the pitch that are easy to see from the stands and on camera but are not easy to see on the touchline.
“It’s like someone sprains their ankle. You see how it goes and within two minutes they put their hand up and say they can’t carry on. You haven’t done any more damage it but at least you know what the situation is.”
Mané’s prompt sending off angered the Liverpool faithful and ensued worldwide social media debate, because it was a 50/50 challenge that could have resulted in a goal for the Reds, and Manchester City went on to dispatch Jurgen Klopp’s men in what looked like a very open contest before referee Jonathan Moss’ key decision.
City proceeded to finish the match with almost double the shots, 91% of their passes completed, 66% of the ball and five goals to the good. They were already ahead by time the Liverpool star was sent off, but the man advantage saw Pep Guardiola’s men massively outstretch their counterparts and end what appeared to be a well-contested fixture before kickoff.
Had the 25-year-old, sent off three times in his Premier League career, escaped with a yellow card, there would have been significantly less discussion about the issue. However, the Senegal international’s sending off should promote further awareness of the dangers of head injuries, further player awareness of these injuries, and, in turn, help eradicate these problems in football.
The problem with head injuries is that they are not normal injuries, but the challenges that result in them are very similar. Furthermore, while injury prevention heavily influences professional football, blows to the head can cause problems beyond a player’s football career.
A few argued that Mané’s challenge on Ederson was similar to one that Arsenal’s Héctor Bellerín attempted on Mohammed Salah last week, the difference being that Bellerín missed the ball and avoided Salah’s head. However, these arguments bring to light the wide lack of understanding around the rules set for challenges to the head.
Someone tell me what the differnece is between Mane red, and what Bellerin did v Salah the other week, when Salah scored. pic.twitter.com/CB7m9cpk6c
— Craig Connor (@craig_c_88) September 9, 2017
Watching Mané’s challenge on Ederson could have discouraged a lot of people looking to place their children in youth football. While normal injuries are often just temporary layoffs, or at worst, football career-ending, head injuries are one of the few types of incidents that could bring a player’s quality of life into danger.
Evolutionary research has been contributed to creating a correlation between children playing American football and showing extreme developmental changes to their brain between the ages of 8 and 13. While European football is not played with the same level of head collisions, studies show that simply heading a ball can be the catalyst behind negative brain changes.
According to the United States National Institute of Health, 22% of injuries that occur in the beautiful game are head injuries. The same institution did a variety of tests that concluded in the same verdict- a statistical correlation between playing football and head injuries. Last season, the Premier League recorded fourteen concussion-related injuries, including a controversial one that saw Anthony Martial allowed to continue Manchester United’s match against Watford despite being very clearly concussed.
Consider that fourteen injuries is almost one every two weeks; yet, when Martial has clearly taken a blow to the head, nobody knows how to deal with it. The fact that Mané is even permitted to make a studs-up challenge towards Ederson’s head and have an argument for not being sent off is a problem.
Makes genuine attempt for ⚽️. A contact sport now refereed with over sensitive interpretation rather than common sense.
— Stan Collymore (@StanCollymore) September 9, 2017
The action against Mané should make players more aware of their challenges – injuries are a grey area when lunging into challenges, but knowing that lunging foot-first at a goalkeeper’s head could result in a red card if it doesn’t pan out will undoubtedly improve the decision-making of players in the same fashion as leg-breaking challenges.
In the United States, regulations are in place to limit the amount of times children head a football in a week, or even on the pitch, and while this may be excessive, it shows the action other nations are taking to prevent head injuries in football. Progress is being made in England, but not quickly enough, and time is ticking before a player suffers a life-changing injury.
Therefore, while Mane’s challenge was not malicious in any way, it was very dangerous, and brought to light the issues that have surrounded head injuries in football for years. Fixing this issue will make the Premier League a better environment for the best footballers in the world in the years to come.