Concussion Crisis in FIFA

Concussion Crisis Coming to FIFA?

Stephen D. Lasday, DPM Podiatrist Sarasota and Bradenton

Concussion Crisis in FIFA

Uruguayan midfielder Alvaro Pereira taking a knee to his head!

Soccer may be the original “foot”ball, but foot injuries aren’t my only concern in this popular sport.

Let’s recap first. The world—including the United States—is currently mesmerized by the FIFA World Cup. FIFA stands for Fédération Internationale de Football Association, in case you were wondering!

The United States team was close to advancing into the “knockout stages” of the World Cup last week; however, that advancement was almost halted when Portugal scored a late game goal and the game ended in a draw. And their “loss” against Germany today actually allows them to advance to the knockout round, because they didn’t lose by enough to get eliminated. Soccer’s rules are somewhat confusing, to say the least…

And there’s one rule that is particularly troublesome: FIFA’s antiquated substitution rule. What’s the big deal? It does not allow enough time to properly evaluate players for concussions.

Let’s face it… untreated concussions are a problem. It doesn’t matter how great your feet are if your brain is damaged.

Case in point: in an incident during the second half of Uruguay’s win over England at the World Cup, Uruguayan midfielder Alvaro Pereira was momentarily out of it when his head collided with the knee of an English player. And then he continued to play in the game. Why? Because of the substitution rule.

The team manager has to make a decision right on the spot. His choices are: 

  1. He can insert a substitute and lose one of his best players for the rest of the match since once a player is replaced by a substitute, he cannot re-enter the game.
  2. He can take the time and have the player evaluated for a concussion. But this forces a team to play with only 10 players until the evaluation is complete. According to NFL guidelines, a proper concussion evaluation takes at least 8  minutes.
  3. He can just trust his player and put him back in the game at the next opportunity.  Most players want to stay in a game just like Pereira did, particularly a world cup game!

The Uruguayan manager reinserted Pereira without a proper concussion evaluation. Once you spot a player possibly losing consciousness, maybe an evaluation is the only option?

The World Cup is exciting, but I hope this substitution rule gets changed to allow time for proper concussion evaluations. Let’s put the players first.

For more on FIFA’s substitution rule: Photo: ESPN