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Question Number: 31837

Law 3 - The Players 9/28/2017

RE: Competitive Master (over 35s) Adult

AJ of LONDON, GREATER LONDON United Kingdom asks...

Why must the game stop before a physio is allowed onto the pitch to treat an injury - what is the reasoning behind this?

In other sports, such as rugby, a physio can treat player when the game is active. Indeed, this would seem to be safer as a player can get immediate attention.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Good question and I would say that the roots of this is in the history of the game. At one time there was no substitutions and injuries were not treated as seriously as they are now. Viewing old footage one can see players having to make their way off the field *injured* to get treatment.
So no one was allowed on the FOP without the referees permission. That is still the case today.
Unfortunately the modern game has abused the treatment of injuries to slow the game down or prepare substitutions.
I agree that the game could continue and that physios should be allowed on from the nearest point to the injured player as long as they are not interfering with play or potential play with all that entails. I cannot see it happening though but who knows

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Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi AJ,
In general, we only know the exact reasoning behind a particular provision in the Laws when it has been the subject of an amendment at some point, as in these cases, there is usually (though not always) a written reason given in the minutes of the IFAB meeting where the amendment was adopted.

Since as far as I am aware, this particular part of the law has not been the subject of an amendment, there is no written reason to be found.

If you were to ask me for a reason why it is not permitted to treat players while play is going on, I would have to disagree with my colleague referee McHugh and say that I thinnk it would pose a hazard to all involved. If a player is being treated while play is going on, there would be the player themselves and usually two other people (physio/doctor) forming an obstruction on the pitch.

For me, the difference to rugby is that rugby is a game played mainly with the hands or by kicking the ball in the air while football is played in large part with the ball being kicked along the ground. In rugby, if a player is running downfield with the ball in the hands, it is relatively easy to run around an obstacle. For a football player dribbling the ball along the ground, it is much more difficult. So if a player is dribbling full speed down the pitch with the ball at his feet, being pursued or challenged by an opponent and then suddenly finds three people in his way, he cannot just run around them (without losing the ball) like a rugby player could. I think collisions would be almost inevitable - and the person most at risk would be the already-injured player who is in danger of having their injury exacerbated by such a collision.

Having said that, that is just my opinion and it is interesting to note that it has indeed been suggested in the IFAB's ongoing ''fair play'' discussions that a possible amendment to improve the game in terms of less time being lost, would be exactly as you suggest - to allow players to receive treatment while play continues. For the reasons stated above I would be opposed to the idea but obviously I have no say in the matter and as it stands, there is a chance that this amendment may be made at some point in the not too distant future (although it is by no means inevitable that all the suggestions that have been discussed, will be adopted).

Incidentally, I understand and sympathise with your point about treatment for an injured player being possibly delayed under the current methods but that should not happen if the referee is following the law, as it says that the referee must stop play immediately, whenever there is a serious injury.

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