Call For A Consultation (202) 644-8303
Our Blogs

FIFA Criticized Over Handling of World Cup Concussion Injuries

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.

Because 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.