Football

Tottenham boss Antonio Conte warns of potential to ‘cheat’ concussion rules

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Tottenham Hotspur boss Antonio Conte has accused some players of « cheating » by using concussion protocols to waste time in matches.

The issue of how such injuries are managed in matches has been raised in recent days after Leeds defender Robin Koch attempted to carry on after suffering a blow to his head in Sunday’s 4-2 defeat to Manchester United at Elland Road.

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Koch was left covered in blood following a clash with Scott McTominay in the 12th minute. He returned to the pitch with his head bandaged before going down again and being substituted in the 31st minute.

The Professional Footballers’ Association has reiterated calls for the introduction of temporary substitutes with the International Football Association Board (IFAB) set to discuss the issue at its AGM on March 3.

An IFAB spokesman claimed on Tuesday that « changes to the protocols are not foreseen » at that meeting as things stand. But Conte raised a different problem — without specifying any examples — when asked for his opinion at a Tuesday news conference ahead of Tottenham’s Premier League trip to Burnley.

« I follow this topic but especially injuries with concussion, » he said. « We have to pay attention but you know very well football is a sport of impact.

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« I remember very well in my career that twice I had concussions during the game. For sure when this type of situation happens, we have to pay great attention and we have to stop the game, to go straight to the medical [personnel] to understand very well the situation.

« In my opinion, the most important thing is we have to pay great attention but at the same time, we have to pay attention when there is a serious problem, not to give the possibility to the player to exploit this type of situation to lose time.

« Otherwise, this is no good and sometimes I see this type of situation. We are talking about a serious situation, not to exploit a hit in your head to lose time because I think you become a cheater. »

Conte went on to joke that Harry Kane, who excelled in Spurs’ 3-2 win at Manchester City last weekend, would have to play through almost any injury given how central he is to the club’s top four hopes.

Kane was seen limping after Saturday’s victory but is available to face Burnley at Turf Moor on Wednesday and Conte joked: « Harry had a hit in his back but he has to play. Also, if he has one leg, I ask him to play! I’m sorry but I think this!

« Harry knows very well the importance that he has in our team, in our squad for his personality, his experience. But he’s good.

« For sure, now I’m joking, I don’t force a player if he is injured to play. Never. Only to tell you the importance of this player. »

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