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How to treat a head injury
John Terry is tended to in the Carling Cup final
John Terry was sent to hospital but made a rapid recovery

What would you do if you saw a player lying on the pitch, blood all over their face and not moving?

Chelsea's John Terry was lucky to recover so quickly from unconsciousness in the Carling Cup final after an accidental kick in the head.

But most football teams don't have the benefit of professional medical teams so what would you do if it happened in a game you were playing in?

Reading's physio Jon Fearn reveals what the basic response should be.


When a player goes down with a head injury the first priority is not to move them. Neck and spinal injuries are easily made worse by this so leave them where they are.

However, if they are unconscious their life is at risk so some movement may be deemed necessary. This should be left to trained personnel only.

Call an ambulance immediately if at any stage you feel a major trauma is involved or are unsure what to do. Grab a member of public to do this if you have to.

There is likely to be someone with first aid qualifications at the game to administer basic attention but it is always better to be safe than sorry.

Top paramedics and medical staff are always available for action at professional games, so that is why it is crucial for any amateur team to have someone trained in basic first aid.


Open eyes does not necessarily mean the player is conscious. The best way to check for this is their responses.

Speak to them, say their name, or just tap them on their shoulder. Look for a reaction.

If they fail to respond then call an ambulance.

However, there are still a few things you can do to help before professional medical help arrives. Remember the ABC guide.

A clear airway, breathing and circulation are all vital for anyone to be alive and each needs to be considered in turn when dealing with the injured player.


A clear airway is required for oxygen to reach the lungs.

A big danger is for the player's tongue to relax and fall back into the mouth. If this happens, the best thing to do is the chin lift.

You maintain their airway by placing one hand on their forehead and then gently tilt their head backwards by using two fingertips to lift the chin.

This will allow air to enter through the nose and mouth and into the lungs.


There are a few ways of checking. Look for the chest going up and down and also simply listen for sounds of breathing.

Put the side of your face against theirs and feel for breath and condensation. A mirror (which you may have in the medical bag) near the mouth will also show condensation.


Once you know the airway is clear and they are breathing, there needs to be a circulation to deliver oxygen around the player's body.

This can be assessed by using the carotid artery in the neck and finding the pulse.

Gently press two fingers (not thumb) to the left or right of the throat and run them around towards the back of the neck.


Keeping the player warm and comfortable will help. Foils are great for this, but a blanket or a jumper will do.

And until the situation becomes more under control, the player should not have any fluids or food.

Sometimes a player will carry on playing after a knock on the head and appear OK. Be careful.

Symptoms afterwards are very important because there is always a danger of slow bleeding inside the head which can result in the player dying within hours.

Things to look out for are headaches, throwing up, dizziness, memory loss, blurred vision, being unsteady or dilating eyes.

If there is any slight concern, get down to the hospital.


  • Don't move the player unless you really have to

  • Call the emergency services if there is any doubt

  • Remember the A, B, C guide.

    And get as many of your players as possible signed up to take a course in first aid.

    There are loads of places you can do this. Try your local health authority, your regional football association, the Red Cross, St John Ambulance, or a sport centre.

    Terry recovers after head injury
    25 Feb 07 |  Chelsea
    Chelsea 2-1 Arsenal
    25 Feb 07 |  League Cup
    Keeper Cech has surgery on skull
    15 Oct 06 |  Chelsea


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