Published on October 22, 2016


By: John Van de Vaarst – National Clinician

The monthly “NISOA Referee Nuts and Bolts” column is written primarily for the college and high school soccer referee. However, any soccer referee who wishes to improve personal performance may also find that this series is helpful.
All articles address those BASIC techniques, procedures, practice alternatives, and skills that are sometimes forgotten or overlooked while going through the experiences of soccer refereeing. The short discussions and accompanying practical tips stress important advice for competent performance. This month’s article will focus on injuries and substitutions during injuries.

Both the NCAA and NFHS Rules Books have specific rules regarding substitutions during injuries. In addition, both books have numerous play rulings that deal with unique situations that may occur as a result of an injury. This article will focus on several of these items. A future article will deal specifically with concussion injuries.

The NCAA Rules Book limits the reentry of players when a substitution occurs. There is no reentry in the first half or either overtime and only one reentry in the second half. However, under certain circumstances, when a player is injured a reentry can be permitted. If a player is injured and the opponent who caused the injury is cautioned, the injured player may be substituted for and reenter the game later in the same period. Neither the injured player or the substitute shall be charged with a substitution.  In the second half, this allows for the player to reenter the game be substituted for and the reenter the game one more time in that half. This does not apply for field players who are substituted for as a result of a normal injury.

Another time that a reentry will not be counted occurs when a player is bleeding or has blood on the uniform. The same scenarios as described above are applied during this situation. The only difference is that the bleeding must have been stopped and the uniform either changed or cleaned.

NCAA rules allow for a team to play short, provided there are a minimum of seven players on the field, when an injury occurs. The injured player does not have to be substituted for and may remain on the sideline. Once the injured field player is able to return, he/she can return during the normal course of play after being beckoned by the referee. This can occur during the game, any stoppage, and normal substitution times.

A team may elect to substitute for an injured player. If this occurs the opposing team may substitute a like number (one for one). All substitution rules with regard to reentry apply.

When a player is injured during a game played under NFHS rules and the clock has been stopped either team may substitute an unlimited number of players provided that the players have reported to the scorekeeper and they are beckoned by the referee. The NFHS has no limits on substitutions so the reentry situations described above do not apply.

The NFHS Rules Book also has very clear instructions with regard to bleeding players and blood on the uniform. Any player who has an open wound, bleeding, or blood on the uniform will be directed to leave the game. He/she cannot reenter until the bleeding has stopped, the wound is covered, or the uniform changed or cleaned. If the player is removed during a penalty kick situation the substitute cannot take the kick.

NFHS rules require that any time the clock is stopped for an injury the player, including the goalkeeper, must be removed from the game. Under NCAA rules, the referee can assess the extent of the injury and if he/she does not call the training staff or coach on to the field the player or goalkeeper does not have to be removed.  Any injured player or goalkeeper must leave the field of play if the referee stops the clock to assess the injury. This must occur even if the coach or trainer refuses to enter the field to attend to the injured player or goalkeeper.

If a team elects to play short as a result of an injury during a NFHS game, the injured player may reenter the game during any stoppage of play after being beckoned by the referee. The player cannot reenter during the course of dynamic play. If the team elects to play short and later decides to substitute for the injured player, the substitution may only enter the game during at the next legal substitution opportunity.

The above situations are unique to injuries and it is important that the referee assigned any game be aware of the NCAA and NFHS rules so that all interpretations of the rules are accurate. Many coaches are now aware of the technical aspects of the rules and may question a decision.  The referee must be fully prepared to resolve the matter quickly and accurately.

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