Uruguay's Alvaro Pereira took a knee to the head in yesterday's England match. He was out on the pitch—completely unconscious. Just minutes later, he overruled the team's medical staff and returned to play. Today, world soccer's players' union called for an investigation using some pretty basic logic: maybe the guy with the scrambled brains shouldn't get to decide how scrambled his brains are.
Pereira went down in the 61st minute after a collision with Raheem Sterling. Once he came back to consciousness, doctors made the decision to remove him from the match. But he angrily shoved them away and trotted back on. The guy who, two minutes earlier, looked like this:
International soccer doesn't care about concussions; it's simply not an issue. FIFPro would like to change that. In a statement today, the union called for alterations to FIFA's concussion protocol, namely, to actually have one.
The World Footballers' Association is seeking urgent talks and immediate assurances that FIFA can guarantee the safety of the players, which must be priority number one, for the remainder of this tournament and beyond.
FIFPro wants three things, and all seem sensible.
- They'd like all players suspected of being concussed to undergo a standardized cognitive exam on the sideline, to be compared with baseline tests conducted before the match.
- They want the exam to be conducted by an independent physician because they don't trust national team doctors to have the players' best interests in mind.
- They want FIFA to allow players to temporarily be substituted for while undergoing concussion exam. This would reduce the urge to rush a player right back into a match, and wouldn't count against the team's limit of three subs.
There is little traction for concussion reform in soccer, perhaps with the exception of MLS. This past season in the Premier League, we saw three players go down with head injuries within a week. The absolute worst was Tottenham goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, knocked unconscious by a knee to the dome. The Premier League mandates concussion exams, but Lloris's examination was briefer than brief and he remained in the match. He finally underwent a real exam a week later, and failed miserably.
FIFA nominally takes its cues from the International Consensus Conferences on Concussion in Sport, semi-regular get-togethers featuring researchers and executives from international sport governing bodies. The only concrete step FIFA has taken seems to be producing this printable pocket guide.