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In wake of Pereira incident, players union lashes out at FIFA and suggests reforms in head injury protocol

Jun 20, 2014, 6:12 PM EDT

Pereira Getty Images

FIFPro has ripped FIFA for Uruguay’s handling of Alvaro Pereira‘s incident in Thursday’s match against England, and presented a pair of suggestions that could progress soccer towards a better view towards head injuries.

Pereira was very clearly knocked out by incidental contact with Raheem Sterling‘s knee, but once he came to he refused to come off despite doctors pleading with him to make the substitution.

With the ghost of second-impact syndrome looming, FIFA has largely ignored the elephant in the room, and with this new incident on a world stage, the player’s union has decided enough is enough.

They insisted FIFA conduct “a thorough investigation into its own competition concussion protocol which failed to protect Uruguayan footballer Alvaro Pereira.”

FIFPro also presented the following suggestions as possible fixes to the problem:

  • An independent doctor with no bias conducts a thorough evaluation after a player suffers a loss of consciousness or other concussion symptoms.
  • The institution of a temporary substitute so the head evaluation can take place without the team looking to rush the player back into play.

While those seem nice, there’s sure to be backlash for a temporary sub.  New competative balance issues could arise if a team takes advantage of this temporary substitute to give a tired player a rest.  In addition, if a temporary substitute were to score a goal, it would no doubt leave the opposing team hard done by, with a fresh player able to come off the bench without substitution consequences.

Ultimately, the goal is to protect players from themselves in the heat of the moment.

“FIFPro understands that in certain moments, faced by the pressures of such an important international stage, many players would react in this way,” the group said in a statement. “There are times, however, when the players also require greater protection against the prospect of making any rash decisions. (A player with a potential head injury) must be subjected to further evaluation and follow-up procedures that help determine if and when he can return to training.”

Second-impact syndrome is a dangerous, potentially fatal, and very real situation where a concussed player receives a second blow to the head.  Once a player has sustained a concussion, their head becomes exponentially more susceptible to serious, potentially fatal effects should they take another impact.

  1. lostintransocean - Jun 20, 2014 at 6:20 PM

    This shouldn’t be difficult or controversial. A player who is bleeding is taken off the pitch, so a player who loses consciousness should be removed from the pitch.

  2. footballer4ever - Jun 20, 2014 at 8:52 PM

    Easy fix. Increase substitution from 3 to 5. It not only improves football quality, but it adds a fresh flavor when some players are simply dragging. Fresh footballers, better football quality.

    • midtec2005 - Jun 20, 2014 at 10:10 PM

      It also provides more opportunity to replace injured players…

    • mikeevergreen - Jun 21, 2014 at 8:38 AM

      I’d say that falls short. Make it six, and more if the game-time temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

  3. wjarvis - Jun 20, 2014 at 9:36 PM

    While not necessarily a simple fix (at least not compared to footballer4ever’s suggestion), here is what I’d do.

    Before play starts the manager has to give the starting lineup, and designate a injury replacement for each player. Since they won’t know the score when an injury occurs it would be risky to name a player that is either too offensive or defensive in nature relative to each starter.

    When an independent doctor determines that a player needs additional testing, then the injury replacement can go on the pitch without being charged a substitution until the testing is concluded. Or the manger can put any player in and be charged a normal substitution, and the injured player can’t return.

    When the testing is completed if the injured player is cleared to play, the injury replacement player must leave the field. The manager can then either have the injured player re-enter the game, or use a normal substitution to replace them. If the injured player is not cleared to re-enter play, then the manager must either play with 10 men or use any player they want by using a substitution.

    Not a perfect solution, but it means teams won’t be down a man due to giving a player more extensive medical testing before allowing them to return to the game if healthy.

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