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NWSL: Concussion precautions to sideline Abby Wambach for Western New York’s home opener

Apr 25, 2013, 2:15 PM EDT

Abby Wambach of the U.S. kisses her gold medal after winning the women's soccer final against Japan during the victory ceremony at Wembley Stadium during the London 2012 Olympic Games

Two days ahead of their home opener in Rochester, Western New York announced Abby Wambach will miss Saturday’s game against the Boston Breakers, a precautionary step taken after the U.S. international suffered a concussion-esque head injury last Saturday in the team’s visit to Washington, D.C. According the the club, Wambach “is progressing each day, but will be taking the necessary steps to ensure a full, healthy recovery.” Without her, the Flash will not only need to reorganize their attack, but they’ll need to compensate for the absence of their biggest drawing card.

Wambach was hit in the head by a kicked ball late in Saturday’s visit to the Washington Spirit. Although she finished out the five minutes remaining in the match, the Flash striker was evaluated for a concussion post-game and wasn’t made available to the media. Spirit players noted Wambach was mumbling and unable to remember the time between being hit and the final whistle. Until today’s announcement, she had been considered day-to-day ahead of Saturday’s visit from Boston.

That Wambach was allowed to continue after this …

… was the subject of some commentary from Stefan Fatsis at Slate. Read the whole piece. Here’s a big chunk, but there’s much more to this piece:

I described the scene to neurosurgeon Robert Cantu, the co-director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy at Boston University and co-author of the new book Concussions and Our Kids. Cantu said it was “absurd” that Wambach wasn’t yanked off the field …

The National Women’s Soccer League says it’s not. A spokesman said the league follows the concussion guidelines of the U.S. Soccer Federation … The guidelines state: “Immediately remove athlete from participation if concussion is suspected.” It was certainly possible that Wambach could have been concussed. Did game personnel just fail to follow the guidelines?

NWSL commissioner Cheryl Bailey told me that league personnel are aware of the U.S. Soccer concussion guidelines and that they were applied in this case.

Fair enough. The author of the Slate piece disagrees, but he also hypothesized a curious motive: “did Wambach stay in because she’s Abby — as important as anyone to the fate of the third women’s league in the last decade”?

Wambach doesn’t carry that profile anymore. Not since Alex Morgan emerged, but in her home town of Rochester, Wambach is still expected significant draw, particularly for a team that was short changed in player allocation (the Flash got two, instead of three, U.S. internationals). While most expected her to land in Portland before this winter’s dispersal, Wambach was tabbed to be the new Flash’s marquee star.

Western New York head coach Aaran Lines talked to ProSoccerTalk on Wednesday ahead of our Game of the Week feature. Here were his thoughts on Wambach’s commercial value:

Abby’s here to first and foremost play for the club and play well for the club. People should come out and support the [team] and see Abby Wambach play for the [team]. I hope we get a ton of support throughout the season – people wanting to come out and see her play on the Western New York Flash team. There’s not only Abby. There are other good players around Abby – very, very high level players. So I hope they come out and support the team with Abby in it.

We’ll see on Saturday. Even when Wambach was expected to play, the preliminary numbers were a little low:

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