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Head Injury in the Football World Cup Sparks Concussion Debate

Written by Mrs. Fiona Meikle

The England versus Uruguay game will most likely be remembered for Luiz Suarez’ two fantastic goals which, as a result, could bring England’s World Cup contest to an early finish. But what I will remember from this particular game is the severe head injury that one of the Uruguayan players, Alvaro Pereira, sustained in the second half. On first glance it didn’t look too bad, but then he didn’t move for a few seconds. On replay, you could clearly see that the knock to the head had been severe and Pereira was momentarily unconscious. After receiving this hit to the head, Pereira stood up and saw that the coaching staff were trying to substitute him to take him off the pitch. Pereira shouted that he was not coming off and the coaching and medical staff let him continue play, despite the fact that he clearly looked unsteady on his feet and woozy.

Concussion in sport has been a well discussed topic but not all sports are currently trying to do something to improve their ability to test players for concussion and to remove them from the game if they do show symptoms of a head injury. In sports like ice hockey, rugby and American football, in which being hit on the head is just a part of playing the game and where complaining of injury is not a trait that coaches look for in their athletes, they have started to recognise the severe impact that concussion can have on a player and their long term quality of life. There have been too many stories of athletes who have played long careers and sustained numerous concussions, only to retire and discover that they could be likely to develop early onset Alzheimer’s and suffer from memory loss. Too much pressure is put on the athlete’s to continue to play despite sustaining a head injury, from staff, teammates and fans. Athletes also put pressure on themselves to continue to play and often do not want to come off the pitch, especially in tournaments such as the World Cup. In these situations the coaching and medical staff need to be able to make a thorough assessment of the athlete to determine whether or not it is safe for them to return to play, and take them off the pitch if necessary, even if the player does not want to stop playing.

In order to start to see changes in the way players with head injuries are dealt with, the athletes, coaching staff and support staff need to be educated on the dangers of concussion, its symptoms and how it affects the athlete not only during their athletic career but also in their life after sport. Rules and guidelines should be brought in for all sports at all levels on assessment of head injuries and when players can and cannot be allowed to return to play. Without this education and guidelines, players will continue to play on despite head injuries and will often be encouraged to do so by staff and teammates, which could cause serious harm to the athlete. We need to protect our athletes not only now but for their future. - See more at: http://www.fionameikle.com/blog/entry/3741514/head-injury-in-the-world-cup-sparks-concussion-debate#sthash.Bzrbu9rN.dpuf

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  • BASES Accredited Sport and Exercise Scientist
  • Science Council Chartered Scientist
  • M.Sc. Applied Sport and Exercise Psychology
  • B.Sc. Sports Medicine

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