'It's sickening. It's horrible to see' - Another head injury controversy at the Euros

Austria goalscorer Christoph Baumgartner stayed on the pitch while visibly struggling tonight.

Christoph Baumgartner is helped off the pitch.
Christoph Baumgartner is helped off the pitch.
Image: Mihai Barbu

FORMER IRELAND INTERNATIONAL Damien Duff says it was “sickening” to watch another head injury controversy unfold at Euro 2020 this evening.

Major changes are needed, Duff and Didi Hamann said on the RTÉ panel, after an incident involving Austria’s matchwinner Christoph Baumgartner.

The midfielder had a clash of heads with Ukraine’s Illya Zabarnyi in the first half of his side’s 1-0 win in Group C, though remained on the pitch to score the decisive 21st-minute goal.

Baumgartner was visibly struggling and went down holding his head on two more occasions, but was not withdrawn until almost 15 minutes after the original incident.

This comes just days after a massive controversy surrounding the handling on Benjamin Pavard’s head injury in the France-Germany opener.

Duff and Hamann were on the RTÉ panel for this evening’s Austria-Ukraine clash alongside presenter Jacqui Hurley, and the trio discussed the worrying incidents in detail:

Didi Hamann: I think we need something in place. We heard that Pavard was unconscious in that first game, I’d suspect he’s not been checked after, and played the second game. If you had a head injury, you might be okay now but it’s all the damage you do to your brain. It’s not tomorrow or in a weeks’ time, it might be in two, five, or 10 years’ time.

I think something needs to happen. We’ve had this discussion time and time again over the last few years, nothing has changed. I think something needs to happen.

Jacqui Hurley: Damien, this was the third time that he went down. He had gone down before, he had obviously scored the goal. It’s the player himself who is making the decisions. As Didi says, maybe that decision needs to be taken out of his hands and we need an independent doctor to do that?

Damien Duff: Absolutely. Similar to rugby.

It’s sickening actually watching him go down. He was down two or three times. I think the rules don’t help the manager. [France manager, Didier] Deschamps has come and said about the Pavard incident the other day: ‘We hold our hands up, we should have taken him off’.

In rugby, you’re allowed a concussion sub. So, Allow Baumgartner to come off, get a HIA test, and you’ve still got 11 men on the pitch. But I think that influences managers. They’re like, ‘Just keep him on, I don’t want to go down to 10 men’.

It’s a simple rule, just a quick change and we’re still at 11v11. You’re not getting punished by sending a player off for a HIA test. But it’s horrible to see…”

DH: I think Deschamps shows exactly what the problem is, he didn’t take him off. He must have seen the way [Pavard] went down, or the doctor must have told him, ‘I think he was out for a bit but he’s coming back around’.

It shows the whole problem, because at the time, he didn’t take him off. And then to come out two or three days later and say ‘I should have taken him off’…

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JH: But then Pavard had to come off against Portugal so he’s clearly not right. It’s a problem.

DH: Potentially, yes. The question I would ask is has he been checked after the game? Obviously, you need to check him after the game, it was wrong to let him play on. But if you check him after the game and there’s a problem, then surely he shouldn’t have played the other day.

JH: In football, we’ve seen this with Chelsea before as well. The team doctors are being put under pressure, they want to get the players on the pitch. It’s just a really, really difficult situation for everybody involved, because the player wants to play.

DD: Absolutely. Players, we all think we’re invincible: ‘There’s nothing wrong with me,’ but there is obviously something drastically wrong with (Baumgartner) there. He has gone down twice.

All it is is a slight rule change, you can keep it 11 vs 11 on the pitch, straightforward. It will be interesting to see now if he plays the next game. What test is he getting away from the pitch now? Is it an independent doctor, their own doctor. I’m intrigued to see if he plays the next game.

Screenshot 2020-11-24 at 9.04.07 AM

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Emma Duffy

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