FIFA’s injury policy concerning
I sat contently on my couch watching this year’s FIFA World Cup final between Germany and Argentina. 19 minutes in, Germany’s Christoph Kramer got his bell legitimately rung when his jaw smashed into Ezequiel Garay’s shoulder and sent him to the ground.
Kramer was treated. He was cleared to play. He had no recollection of where he was, but he was cleared to play.
Just over 10 minutes later, Kramer came off, helped by two trainers. He looked almost drunk, stunned and had absolutely no idea what was going on. The trainers took him off and the game continued on.
Everyone knows Germany won the game — it was a beautiful goal that went on to be the game winner, and Germany became the first European team to win on South American soil.
But while the celebrations were going on, Kramer sat on the sidelines asking when the game was going to start.
Concussions have been news porn for the last few years, starting accusations from leagues all around the world. The NHL just recently put in a new protocol for dealing with concussions, while the NFL is dealing with multiple lawsuits from concussed or injured players.
However, in a sport like soccer — which is considered a contact sport — that calls countless fouls trying to keep players safe, how do concussions still go under the radar with FIFA’s regulations?
FIFA’s protocol is harmful to players. Instead of finding some way to get Kramer off the field and give him the attention he needs, Germany didn’t want to use a substitution and risk needing it later on in a very exhausting final.
Germany, and inadvertently Kramer, had two choices — take an injured player off using one of three substitutions, or let him play with a potential head injury.
So Kramer was cleared to play and continued on. He said in an interview with The Guardian that he doesn’t remember anything from the first half. He said, “The game, in my head, started only in the second half.”
How do you let a player go through that? Contact comes from playing sports — it’s logic. But how does an organization such as FIFA fail to protect players by giving them the proper treatment they need?
Kramer wasn’t even the only player this tournament to deal with concussion-like symptoms. Uruguay’s Alvaro Pereira took a knee to the head against England, and despite advice from the trainers, who told him not to return to the match, he continued to play. Javier Mascherano collided heads with Georginio
Wijnaldum in the semifinal, and fell to the ground. He insisted on playing, and returned to the field — despite his health.
Soccer is an interesting sport because it doesn’t allow for infinite substitutions. However, this limit ends up being the limit of enforcing players to put their health above glory.
FIFA may have a proper protocol on how to deal with concussions — including a checklist that explicitly says they should not be permitted to return if a concussion is suspected — but their ability to enforce it is a farce.
FIFA thrives on its ability to grow champions, but in turn they’re killing them by exposing them to continuous head injuries.
The issue of concussions is universal to sport, but FIFA’s protocol and enforcement is by far the most questionable and corrupt. Players continue to play with head injuries instead of being put in dark, quiet rooms with the ability to be properly evaluated.
A 30-second evaluation on the pitch is not enough time to properly determine the level of a concussion these soccer players feel. If FIFA continues to turn a blind eye, there will be more concussed players than champions by the time the 2018 World Cup comes around.
The consensus between analysts, therapists, players and fans alike seems to be that FIFA does not have a strong enough grip or serious enough attitude to deal with incidents of this nature. However, in order to avoid serious injury, FIFA needs to act soon.
Whether or not the players mentioned were injured to a serious degree is irrelevant. The point is that unless FIFA starts to reevaluate the way they approach concussions, there will be more than just a World Cup venue and a few millions in expenses to take care of.