FIFA Needs to Create Universal Concussion Protocol Immediately

Created on Jul. 15, 2014 11:06 AM EST

When Christoph Kramer was struck in the head by the shoulder of Ezequiel Garay, he immediately fell to the ground. The German team continued to pass the ball around for nearly 20 seconds before they were alerted to play the ball out of bounds. The world watched as he struggled to get to his feet, similar to a boxer given a standing 8 count. Kramer then fell back to the ground. At this point, every boxing referee in the world would not have allowed Kramer to continue. However, Kramer was allowed to reenter the game after a short treatment period, played for fifteen minutes, and was then substituted after it became apparent that he did not know where he was. Following the match, Kramer revealed that he did not remember any of the game. 

This is not the only incident like this where a player was allowed to continue. In the semi-final match between Argentina and the Netherlands, Javier Mascherano collided with Georginio Wijnaldum and fell to the ground in a manner similar to Kramer. He pleaded his case and was eventually allowed to continue. He went on to make a heroic game saving tackle against Arjen Robben in the late stages of the match, where he would suffer a different, more embarrassing injury. Earlier in the tournament, Uruguay's Alvaro Pereira was allowed to continue after arguing with club doctors after taking a Raheem Sterling knee to the head.

ESPN's Taylor Twellman spoke out on Twitter against the current FIFA system for traumatic brain injuries during the semi-final saying, "I fear for Mascherano right now. He has no clue what he is doing and because FIFA has no backbone to stand up and legislate it's trouble." Twellman is absolutely correct in this instance. Following their significant blows to the head, these players are not capable of making rational decisions regarding their health. They should not be put in a position to legislate for their return without first consulting with an independent doctor who can determine whether or not the player is capable of returning without further endangering themselves. 

FIFA has the ability to make sweeping changes to virtually any area of the beautiful game, but it lags far behind other sports in terms of addressing player safety. Even the NFL has an independent doctor on the sidelines to give injured players concussion assessments and determine whether or not a player can return to the game. Surely at the games highest levels, they can at the minimum provide this. What FIFA should do is develop a universal protocol for assessing traumatic brain injuries that can be distributed down the world's league structure to ensure that players do not endanger themselves after being struck in the head. FIFA should also make every effort to communicate to players the severity of continuous blows to the head. These injuries can have a lasting impact on player careers, minimizing the possibility for multiple head injuries should be FIFA's top priority following this World Cup. 
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