Daniel Parslow believes it is vital football changes its concussion protocol after the former York City defender saw his career ended by a head injury.
The 33-year-old, who was promoted into the Football League with both the Minstermen and Cheltenham Town, was forced to retire in the summer having suffered a concussion last season.
An accidental collision when challenging for an aerial ball in York’s National League North game against Hereford in February led to Parslow’s last appearance for the club where he sits a proud tenth in the all-time appearance list.
Parslow was part of York’s famous promotion and FA Trophy double winning side in 2012 and has been voted clubman of the year three times while also playing every minute of Cheltenham’s National League title run in 2015-16. He won the FA Trophy a second time with York in 2017 when they beat Macclesfield.
Now he is campaigning for new rules to be brought in to allow medics, ideally independent ones, to properly assess a player who receives a head injury during a game.
He believes temporary substitutes should be allowed to enable the concussion checks to be carried out meticulously and off the pitch where it is quieter and there is less pressure for the game to be restarted.
“I think football is realising it needs to ensure that in this amazing game, that so many people love, players’ welfare is paramount,” Parslow, who has been working closely with the charity Headway, told The NLP. “They are trying to address the issues and follow suit. You see these things in the NFL and Rugby Union where they have these protocols in place.
“I feel there is a place for that in football and I think it will eventually come in to play. I just hope it doesn’t take something serious first to happen.
“You see the HIA (Head Injury Assessment) in rugby where they go off for ten minutes and are properly assessed by an independent doctor so there is no pressure put on by coaches or even fans.
“It’s hard. An injury happens and fans don’t want to see players injured but there’s a pressure on referees to get the game going again. The HIA in rugby allows them to get off the pitch and in to a quiet environment without the pressures of people wanting to watch a game again.
“In the NFL they have a tent where it’s discreet and they can do what they need to do in private. It’s important.
“I’ve tried to contact the FA and PFA to raise awareness. The FA do lots of good work on the back of things like Alan Shearer’s documentary about dementia but maybe my message has been lost a little bit.
“I’m not talking about repetitive heading of the ball. I’m talking about the protocols when there is a concussion – you are so much more prone to risk of further injury when you are in that state.
“Temporary substitutions would help. As a player, adrenaline and the competitor in you takes over. That’s why you need to be removed from the whole incident to a place where you are assessed by someone independent.
“The issue is that all this costs money and at lower league level it’s an extra expense for a doctor to come to the ground and what level do you stop at? It’s hard but I think to protect players from any risk of serious injury it does need to come into play.”
The incident itself wasn’t particularly unusual in the natural flow of a football game.
“I thought I had a free header at the time,” Parlsow explained. “The centre forward at Hereford tried to put me off more than anything. He half jumped in to me, no intent whatsoever, and a flailing arm caught my temple. I immediately hit the floor. I wasn’t knocked unconscious but I knew I’d been hit on the head.
“I dread to think how many knocks I’ve had on my head during my career and it was one of those where I thought, ‘Oh, I think I’m OK’.
“The physio came on, did all the standard checks and did his job: What’s the score, what’s my name? He checked my vision and at that time I was responsive and my vision seemed OK. I passed all the current checks and was able to return to play.
“It was literally a minute before half-time. Within that minute I started to feel sick, I was stumbling and I very quickly realised something was wrong. I flagged it to the physio straight away so I sat with the doctor and went through more tests and questions.
“He said I’d suffered a concussion so I wasn’t allowed to drive home and he made sure I was observed.
“We were hoping I would return to play in a week’s time. But it turned out to be a lot worse. For the next two weeks I couldn’t really get out of bed or open my eyes without chronic migraines. It was really, really bad. I was getting up, having some food and going back to sleep.”
Parslow admits it was a worrying time – even though a scan showed there was no bleed, a brain injury needed more time.
A specialist in Birmingham ruled him out for the rest of last season and in the summer he took the difficult decision to hang up his boots.
While the migraines have now generally subsided, he says there are still times when he feels fatigued but is now on a neurotherapy course at The Brain Collective in Harrogate.
York have also given their long-serving player a benefit year. On October 9 the ‘Wembley Twice in a Week team from 2012’ will play a Daniel Parslow XI at Bootham Crescent and on March 26 a dinner is being held at York Racecourse as well as a golf day in July. And the Welshman, who has a Sports Science degree, can look back on his playing career with real pride.
“I look back and think I’m tenth in the all-time appearance list at York City,” Parslow said. “I achieved three Clubman of the Year awards there. I also went to Cheltenham Town and won the league there so I’m really proud.
“If I’m being honest, the second spell at York didn’t go as well as I hoped. But on the whole, I’ve played 17 years as a professional and I am proud of everything I achieved.”
By Matt Badcock