WHEN Fabian Schar returned to the field after suffering concussion while playing for Switzerland during the international break, the decision to allow the Newcastle United defender to continue was widely condemned.

Peter McCabe, the chief executive of brain injury charity, Headway, described the decision as a “dereliction of duty”. Alan Shearer, who produced a ground-breaking documentary investigating the link between football and dementia, branded the episode “ridiculous” and called for an independent doctor to be present at top-level matches to advise on issues of concussion. Newcastle’s medical staff, while not commenting publicly, pressed for Schar’s omission from Switzerland’s subsequent game against Denmark.

Watching a replay of Schar lying prone on the ground, it seems incredible that just moments later, he was running back on to the field to start challenging for headers. While rugby union has drawn up strict regulations to deal with concussion after research proved just how damaging head injuries can be, the footballing authorities have shied away from issuing a set of firm rules. Clubs and national sides are advised to tread carefully, but there was nothing in the laws of the game to prevent Schar from coming back on.

Most observers feel that has to change, but speaking publicly for the first time since the actions of the Swiss FA received widespread condemnation, the player at the heart of the drama disagrees. Schar consented to his continued participation, and while the medical fraternity will claim that was not in his best interests, the 27-year-old regards the fall-out from the incident as a lot of fuss over nothing.

“For me, I don’t care what has been said,” said Schar, who returned to club duty in Newcastle’s weekend defeat to Crystal Palace. “People have written and said a lot of stuff, but a lot of it is not true.

“There was too much polemic about this. It looked bad at the moment it happened, but in the end, I was fine and it was not too bad at all. I feel really good and it hasn’t affected me at all. I have no injury now, so hopefully we can stop talking about this.”

Schar’s reaction raises interesting questions about the extent to which players should be the masters of their own destiny once they walk on to the pitch. Should they be able to overrule medical advice that has been issued to help protect them? Or given the pressures they are under to perform, should sensitive decisions about concussion and welfare be taken out of their hands?

Speaking immediately after the game, Schar admitted he was “out for a few seconds” and that his skull was “still humming”. He complained of “neck ache” and a “bruise” on his forehead, but almost two weeks on, and he clearly believes things have been overblown.

“I’m good,” he explained. “I had some games in the international break. The thing happened with the head, but everything is fine. I trained the whole week with the team in the build-up to the last game (against Crystal Palace) and I’m feeling really good.”

Be that as it may, there are plenty of medical professionals who would strongly argue that Schar should not have been involved in the decision about his continued participation.

In the heat of battle, how many players would willingly walk off, knowing such a move would leave them open to criticism from their manager or supporters? Wouldn’t it be better if there were hard-and-fast rules preventing them playing for a pre-agreed period from the minute they were knocked out?

Issuing protocols and advice is one thing; changing the rules to prevent players from returning to the field is quite another. Up until now, football’s governing bodies have felt that the former approach is sufficient. Increasingly, though, they are being urged to introduce new legislation to prove they are taking the damage caused by head injuries seriously.

“How many more players will have their careers, and more importantly their lives and long-term health, put at risk by the sport’s inability to follow its own protocols?” asked McCabe, in the wake of Schar’s injury.

“Put simply, the decision to allow Fabian Schar to return to the field of play after suffering a clear concussion was not only incredibly dangerous, but also a clear dereliction of duty.

“The player’s comments after the match are also deeply disturbing, and show the lack of awareness and understanding among players.

“UEFA must immediately launch an investigation into the incident.”