By: Joseph Cammarata
In the World Cup semifinal between Argentina and Holland, Argentina midfielder
Javier Mascherano violently clashed heads with Holland's Georginio
Wijnaldum. Mascherano was visibly stunned after the incident and later
fell to the ground. The commotion that followed made it seem he would
be out of the game. However, after only a brief examination,
Mascherano returned to play.
After the game, many brain injury experts and advocates stepped forward
to criticize FIFA and the way it handled Mascherano's injury. The
consensus was that the three minute examination was too short. Thorough
evaluations, they claim, can't be performed in that amount of time,
as it can take hours or days for problems to develop after a concussion.
The standard accepted by most professionals is that when in doubt about
a player's condition after a head injury,
keep them out.
Concussions & Return-to-Play Policies
Mascherano's incident is only the most recent example of FIFA allowing
players to return to play after a head injury. In earlier rounds, a player
from Uruguay was allowed to return to the game even though a doctor called
for a substitution. The dangers of returning players to the game after
concussions have been well documented, and have been widely covered during
the high profile NFL concussion lawsuit. FIFPro, soccer's international
player's union, has also called for an overhaul of the sport's
concussion regulations, which fall short of those in the NFL.
putting players back into the game after a concussion can put them at risk
for suffering additional damage and long-term injuries or impairments, many sports organizations – especially at younger levels –
have strict policies in place. As a longtime brain injury advocate, I
have helped draft legislation which became law in the District of Columbia
that established strict guidelines for removing and returning youth athletes
from practice or play if they are suspected of having a concussion.
I am also representing Bryan Namoff, a professional soccer player who played
for D.C. United. After suffering a concussion during a game in 2009, D.C.
United allowed Namoff to return to play only three days later. He had
not yet fully recovered from the concussion. Namoff's concussion symptoms
worsened after the game; he had difficulty focusing and concentrating
and experienced painful headaches. He now suffers from permanent impairments.
Setting an Example
FIFA's poor handling of concussion injuries sets us back tremendously
in the fight for better return-to-play protocols. We watch professional high-profile athletes continue to play after losing
consciousness, being dazed, and even falling to the ground. So why should
a youth athlete who is just feeling dazed or a bit confused report his
or her symptoms to anyone? These failures are nothing short of outrageous,
reckless conduct by the leagues, and they set a very bad example for all
those participating in competitive sports.
As a firm that has long advocated for brain injury victims and their families,
Chaikin, Sherman, Cammarata & Siegel, P.C. is hopeful that the attention
being given to FIFA's poor concussion policies will shed light on
the seriousness of brain injuries in sports on the world stage. The more
people understand how dangerous prematurely returning players to play
can be, the better the chances for improving the health and well-being
of those participating in sports.
If you have questions about brain injuries or athlete injuries, our Washington,
DC personal injury lawyers are available to help.
Contact our firm to discuss your case with a member of our legal team.