Michael Owen accused of “disrespect” after extraordinary on-air bust-up

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Michael Owen has been slammed for suggesting that head injuries could only be a ‘bump and a bang’ in a debate over concussion protocol while covering the Champions League game between Benfica and Ajax

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Carlton Cole has accused Michael Owen of being “disrespectful” when giving his verdict on concussion protocol in football.

The ex- Manchester United, Liverpool and Real Madrid striker suggested that suffering a head injury could merely be a ‘bump and a bang’ after Ajax ‘s Lisandro Martinez suffered a blow in his side’s Champions League round-of-16 clash with Benfica on Wednesday.

Owen clashed with Chris Sutton, who holds strong views regarding concussion protocol after his father – a former player – passed away following a 10-year battle with dementia in 2020, whilst covering the match on BT Sport.

After Sutton pleaded for the International Football Association Board to do more to protect players with temporary substitutions, Owen claimed that “bumps and bangs” happened frequently in matches, adding: “If we’re taking your view to the extreme, every time they [players] roll around holding their leg, they’ve broken a leg.”

Sutton then labelled Owen a “caveman” and the latter has been on the end of fury on social media.

Join the debate! Should IFAB do more over concussion? Give us your verdict here.

Cole tweeted on Thursday morning: “Was Michael Owen feeling alright last night on that panel? Wow! Got everything completely wrong.

“Very disrespectful and shows very little respect for fellow pros. Smh [shaking my head].”

A Twitter user followed up by saying: “Could not agree with Chris Sutton more and rightfully not backing down to Owen’s idiotic comments regarding head injuries. 100% needs to be addressed with football.”

Another added: “Michael Owen here showing the ignorance of the majority of football.

“Comparing head injury/concussion and increased risk of neuro degenerative disease as well as potential CTE to a broken leg or bang on the shin is disgusting and ignorant. Shameful and disrespectful to sufferers.”

Sutton then spoke out further regarding the on-air incident, writing in his Daily Mail column : “I have a great deal of respect for Michael as a player and for what he achieved in his career and I have to point that out. A lot of respect.

“But I couldn’t be anything other than disappointed with what he said and I could not do anything other than pull him up on it because this means a lot.

“If the type of ignorance Michael displayed is reflective of how ex and current players are really thinking about head injuries and concussion then we are in a whole lot of trouble because they need to know the dangers.”

Wednesday’s incident saw Martinez eventually complete the 90 minutes, having clashed heads with former Manchester City defender Nicolas Otamendi while challenging for a cross in the 31 minute.

But the distressing scenes were compounded given that Leeds ‘ Robin Koch had played on for 15 minutes against Manchester United on Sunday with what appeared to be a serious head injury.

The Yorkshire outfit defended their treatment of Koch, saying: “Robin Koch passed all the on-field concussion screening tests that are currently part of the Premier League protocols.

“The player was told that, if he developed any symptoms, he should sit down on the field of play and would be substituted immediately, which is what Robin did.”