THERE are few things more unnerving than a noisy, boisterous football crowd falling collectively and quickly silent.

Fans tend to get an appreciation fairly quickly whenever something isn’t quite right on the field and react accordingly.

Anyone who was at Fir Park the day Phil O’Donnell tragically died won’t forget in a hurry the eerie hush that descended when it became apparent that this was no ordinary injury.

There were echoes of that unsettling calm on Sunday as Gary Mackay-Steven lay prone on the Hampden turf following an almighty clash of heads with Dedryck Boyata.

It was a relief, then, to see Boyata bandaged up and deemed well enough to continue, and then to hear word later in the day that Mackay-Steven had regained consciousness and was sitting up and talking.

There is talk of him playing again this weekend.

It is encouraging that both players seem to have suffered no obvious immediate damage, but it does beg the question as to whether football takes head knocks and concussion anywhere near seriously enough.

Boyata was patched up and rushed back on with what felt like undue haste, ironically supplying an assist for the only goal of the final in the time added on at the end of the first half.

Players being players, the Belgian would probably have told the Celtic medical staff he was fine to continue and they duly sent him back out.

Mackay-Steven had no chance of continuing, having passed out with the ferocity of the head knock and departed on a stretcher to the apparent distress of some of his team-mates.

Given the possibility of a delayed reaction to a trauma of this nature, it again seems hugely premature to be considering him for physical action less than a week later.

In Sportscotland’s concussion protocol guidelines – updated in March this year for use by all major sporting bodies, including the Scottish FA – it recommends grassroots athletes over the age of 19 take a minimum of 12 days before making a full return to sport following an incident of this nature.

Even taking on board that Mackay-Steven is an elite rather than amateur sportsman, six days – half of the recommended time – still seems far too hasty a return. Non-professional adults are meant to rest and rehabilitate their brain for at last seven days after a concussion, and these measures are in place for a very good reason.

Mackay-Steven will sit out this evening’s game against Rangers but yesterday’s update that he was sick after being let out of hospital is another sign of the delayed reactions that sometimes follow a concussion.

Aberdeen have said they will be guided by their medical team with regards to Mackay-Steven’s progress but, without questioning their professionalism or capabilities, perhaps these are decisions that should be taken out of a player or club’s hands and left to an independent medical supervisor to impartially state if a player has fully recovered from a brain injury or not.

If in doubt, sit them out.

WHILE MLB, professional baseball’s governing body, spoke about looking to “grow the game” when they announced the first-ever competitive matches to take place in Europe, their actions told a different story.

The narrative was meant to be about engaging with curious British fans, enticed by the prospect of seeing the sport’s two biggest organisations – the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees – doing battle for two days in London next June. Once they had experienced the game in the flesh, they would become converts and lifelong baseball fans. Or so they claimed was the thinking.

Instead, ticket prices soon made clear this was all about dollars and cents. In a former athletics stadium-turned-football ground not designed for baseball, MLB went out of their way to dissuade any casual fans or curious families from attending by setting the minimum price at £30 for seats so far-away spectators will be almost in another postcode from the action.

Mid-range seats for the pleasure of visiting West Ham United’s home are going for £145, with “premium” seats available for a mere £385 at which price you presumably get to pitch an inning or two. At those price points, fans would just about be cheaper flying to Boston or New York and taking in a game there, where tickets are available at a fraction of the cost.

Both London games will likely sell out to dedicated MLB fans and travelling Americans, thus justifying the strategy. But kidding on this was anything other than a money-making scheme is just insulting people’s intelligence.