CHRIS SUTTON: I am disappointed with Michael Owen's concussion stance

CHRIS SUTTON: I have a lot of respect for Michael Owen but I couldn’t be more disappointed with what he said about concussion rules on BT Sport duty… the ignorance he showed is troubling in our game 

  • Chris Sutton called Michael Owen a ‘caveman’ on BT Sport duty on Wednesday
  • Sportsmail columnist Sutton and Owen disagreed on football’s concussion rules
  • The row came after Ajax’s Lisandro Martinez carried on despite a head blow
  • Sutton explains why Owen’s comments live on air are troubling in our game 

On Wednesday night, Chris Sutton was involved in a heated exchange with fellow pundit Michael Owen live on BT Sport over concussion checks in football after an incident in Benfica’s Champions League clash with Ajax.

The Dutch side’s defender Lisandro Martinez clashed heads with opponent Nicolas Otamendi in the first-half and appeared to be affected by the blow, but carried the 24-year-old carried on playing and finished the 90-minute game.

Days after Leeds defender Robin Koch was forced off after being told to play on with concussion against Manchester United on Sunday, Sportsmail campaigner Sutton – who has argued that players need to be properly assessed in a dressing room by an independent doctor before they can carry on – called for rulemakers IFAB to bring in temporary subs. 

Chris Sutton (left) called Michael Owen (right) a ‘caveman’ while on Wednesday’s BT Sport duty

The pair were discussing Lisandro Martinez not going off the pitch in Ajax’s draw with Benfica

But Owen disagreed, claiming ‘If you take what you say to an extreme, every time they roll around holding their leg, they have broken their leg.’ That response was described by Sutton, whose father – an ex-professional – passed away after suffering with dementia – as ‘the view of a caveman’.

Here, Sutton explains his reaction and why Owen’s comments show that much work is needed to be done.

I have a great deal of respect for Michael as a player and for what he achieved in his career and I have to point that out. A lot of respect.

But I couldn’t be anything other than disappointed with what he said and I could not do anything other than pull him up on it because this means a lot.. If the type of ignorance Michael displayed is reflective of how ex and current players are really thinking about head injuries and concussion then we are in a whole lot of trouble because they need to know the dangers.

Fifteen months ago the Daily Mail launched a campaign calling on football to finally tackle its dementia scandal, with one of our seven calls demanding the introduction of temporary substitutions. 

Martinez was clearly affected by a clash with Nicolas Otamendi but played the whole game

All we have instead is a trial with permanent substitutions which is not fit for purpose because – as we keep seeing – players with head injuries remain on the field. We saw it at Leeds and we saw it again last night. 

All we want is for the player to come off and be assessed by an independent doctor who is not under any pressure. If they are displaying signs of concussion they come off. If they and the doctor are happy they’re OK and the checks are done, then they come back on. I just can’t understand how anyone could argue against that.

Michael compared it to a footballer being kicked in the leg. I’m sorry, that is nonsense. You can’t compare the two. Maybe Michael is not interested and maybe he should be. Statistically – as an ex-player – he is more likely to get dementia or Alzheimer’s than the public. That’s not me saying that, that is the experts.

Quite honestly, I could not believe what I was hearing. Sometimes it feels like we are fighting a losing battle and this was the latest example. I don’t know if he knows what happened with my dad. My family think it was insensitive, to say the least.

The row comes days after Robin Koch (right) played on while concussed for Leeds last week 

Michael also made a point that some could feign injury to abuse a new system. Well, if someone is caught doing that then you ban them for a game or two. There are things that can be put in place. And you would do very well to feign a head injury given all the cameras we have at grounds these days.

Michael asked me how many concussions I had. I know I played with head injuries. My career finished with one. I wish there had been a procedure in place to look after my wellbeing when we played but there was not and we have to learn. 

I don’t know how much damage I have, I was a centre forward who headed the ball a lot. My generation – and Michael’s – is next.

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