Pitchside

Was decision to let Hugo Lloris continue brave or stupid?

Pitchside Europe

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For those of you just logging on for the reaction to the weekend’s football, the decision of Tottenham to allow Hugo Lloris to play on after suffering a head injury during the 0-0 draw with Everton has been greeted with a wildly mixed response.

For many in the game – including players’ union FifPro, FIFA itself and a leading brain injuries charity – Spurs’ call on their goalkeeper was “dangerous and irresponsible”.

Tottenham, meanwhile, insisted that they were “totally satisfied” that their player was fit to continue, and that Lloris himself insisted on seeing out the match. Indeed, he made a top save late in the game that ultimately earned his team a point.

While many fans have expressed their disapproval of Tottenham’s attitude, others have pointed out that Lloris – and Spurs – showed exactly the kind of bulldog spirit that supporters complain has disappeared from the modern game.

After all, one of the greatest tales in football history is that of late Manchester City goalkeeper Bert Trautmann, who famously played on after suffering a broken neck during the FA Cup final.

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Trautmann in 2004

The former German prisoner of war was lauded for his bravery and his commitment to the cause; a commitment that, to many fans, is sadly lacking among the pampered Premier prima donna, who is all too willing to hit the deck in mock agony at the merest whiff of contact.

We also often refer to iconic images of Terry Butcher and Paul Ince playing with gorily-blooded scalps in vital matches for England. They epitomise a bulldog spirit we hark back to whenever England flounder with a whimper.

But it is worth noting that Trautmann’s act of bravery came in 1956. "The past", LP Hartley wrote in his 1953 novel the Go Between, "is a foreign country; they do things differently there."

It is also worth noting that there is a huge difference between a nasty gash – which undoubtedly looks and feels bad – and a concussion, which can have career- or even life-threatening implications if not treated according to medical advice, which is clearly given by FIFA as such: “Any athlete with suspected concussion should be immediately removed from play, urgently assessed medically, should not be left alone and should not drive any motor vehicle.”

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Butcher shows some bulldog spirit in a 1989 match with Sweden

Actuarial company Towers Watson estimated that Premier League clubs will pay out £100 million in wages to long-term injured players this season alone. Bearing in mind Spurs are at the upper end of the salary scale, you can expect their contribution to that pool to be higher than the mean amount of £5m.

Some of that will be covered by insurance policies. But would the financial services industry countenance paying out to a club who showed irresponsibility by allowing a player to continue against widely accepted medical advice?

Medical convention, and practical wisdom, are often thrown out of the window in sports though. In a column earlier today, Marcus Foley referred to the NFL’s lawsuit settlement regarding concussed players. A link has been made between repeat concussions and depression, not to mention the generally shorter lifespan of players in certain American football positions. And let’s not start on boxing…

Closer to home, concussions have become more of an issue in rugby union, where the improved pace and strength of players since the dawn of professionalism has, ironically, seen careers at the top level shortened. Impact injuries from the shoulder upwards have seen dozens of Premiership players retire in their 20s; for every Jonny Wilkinson – who is frankly a miracle of modern science – there is a Dan Hipkiss or James Collins, the latter having quit the game at 25 after suffering one head injury too many.

Former Worcester Warriors flanker Collins, now 27 and returning to his studies, was helped by the RFU following his injury, which scuppered his transfer to Sale and - after a year of specialist treatment - would ultimately end his career. But his loss of earnings would be dwarfed by those of France keeper Lloris, who is estimated to earn in a week what Collins would have made in a full year.

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Lloris was knocked out by this collision with Romelu Lukaku

What price are football fans prepared to pay for bravery? Should players be allowed to continue if they wish, or should the authorities be able to decide when to fold?

Extreme hypothetical situations are often used to hammer points home, so we will use one: it is 2-2 in the Champions League final as Barcelona face Real Madrid; Lionel Messi takes a crack to the head, losing consciousness momentarily, but wants to continue.

The world’s greatest player is on a hat-trick and is desperate to win the title for his club, who also want to him play on. The referee pulls rank and orders a substitution.

What would you do? Have your say below.

By Reda Maher - on Twitter @Reda_Eurosport

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