Senegal have been defended by Confederation of African Football (CAF) medical doctor Dr. Thulani Ngwenya for their handling of Sadio Mane's head injury against Cape Verde.
Mane received a nasty blow to the head in a collision with opposition goalkeeper Vozinha – who was sent off after a VAR review – in Tuesday's Africa Cup of Nations last-16 tie.
The Liverpool forward was given treatment on the field but was allowed to stay on and subsequently curled in a brilliant opener for Senegal, who went on to win 2-0.
However, Mane collapsed to the ground when celebrating his goal and was taken off shortly afterwards before being assessed at hospital.
He later took to social media to assure worried supporters that "all is well", but brain injury association Headway criticised Senegal for allowing Mane to play on after the collision.
"On the face of it, this seems to be yet another example of football putting results ahead of player safety," said Luke Griggs, deputy chief executive of Headway.
"This was a sickening collision that clearly left both players in enough distress for a concussion to have surely been considered a possibility at the very least.
"At that point, the principle of 'if in doubt, sit it out!' should have resulted in Mane being substituted without another ball being kicked."
Griggs added: "This is now a real test of leadership for CAF and world governing body FIFA – particularly if Senegal declare Mane fit for Sunday's quarter-final.
"If football wants to be taken seriously when it comes to concussion, it simply must take action to enforce and strengthen its protocols."
What really matters #TeamCapeVerde goalkeeper Vozinha pays a visit to the #TeamSenegal star at the hospital following the two players' head collision#TotalEnergiesAFCON2021 | #AFCON2021 | @Fsfofficielle | @fcfcomunica pic.twitter.com/gS2GLVkw6X— #TotalEnergiesAFCON2021(@CAF_Online) January 25, 2022
But Dr. Ngwenya insisted Mane is in good hands with the Senegal medical team, who remain in dialogue with Premier League side Liverpool.
"We have a very capable medical team. Senegal have two team doctors, who are highly commended," Dr. Ngwenya is quoted as saying by Sky Sports.
"I know the team doctors are responsible, so they communicate with the club and I understand that they have actually communicated with Liverpool.
"What I know is that after taking Mane for further investigations, we scanned the head and there was no structural damage, but that does not rule out concussion.
"I'm confident that my colleagues are taking care of the player and the player was in good spirits when I saw him in the hospital."
Dr. Ngwenya added: "I've heard people say, 'why wasn't he removed from the game?' The medical assessment is based on what you see and assess at that particular time.
"The medical team spent quite a significant amount of time assessing Mane.
"It might have been during the assessment the medical team came to a decision it was just a head collision, not concussion because they couldn't pick up anything that was concussion.
"We need to give the benefit of the doubt to them because you can make an assessment at the time and then two minutes later it's different.
"But when I went in there were features of concussion, hence it was easy for me to actually make that call to say we need to remove the player out of the game.
"The player is not capacitated to make a decision because they are confused, so it's you as a doctor that needs to make a decision on their behalf."
Mane posted an image of himself back in the gym on his personal Instagram account on Thursday, accompanied by the caption "recovering".
Despite potentially suffering from concussion after the sickening blow, he has not been ruled out of Senegal's quarter-final against Equatorial Guinea on Sunday.
"I'm not sure if he will be available for the next match. When you look at the protocols, I don't know whether he will be ready. I can't make that assessment," Ngwenya said.
"That judgement can only be made by the team doctors that are managing him on a daily basis."