Alvaro Pereira shows FIFA’s madness in refusing to deal with concussions

Concussions have been one of the major topics in American sports over the last year with the piercing investigative work into the NFL’s lax treatment of the issue.  As more and more studies are done and more is learnt about brain injuries and concussions, more precautions need to be taken by not just football, but every sport.

During a scary incident in Thursday’s Uruguay-England game, the issue came to the forefront for world soccer.  Uruguay’s Alvaro Pereira was shown laying motionless on the pitch in the second half.  Replay showed that he had taken a knee to the skull from Raheem Sterling after attempting a challenge on the ball.  Scary, scary scenes… but, incredibly, Pereira was allowed to immediately return to the game.

After the game, Pereira spoke about the incident and admitted a “moment of madness” inspired by his will to do anything to help his national team win.  Via Reuters:

“It was a moment of madness… I’ve apologized to the doctor because I know it’s his job to look after the players,” Pereira told reporters after Uruguay won 2-1 with a Luis Suarez double.

“I went back on dizzy. But in the heat of the moment with a hot head you don’t think properly,” he said.

“Still, it was a time to help the team and to get a result. And the most important thing is that we got the result.”

Any NFL fan will see those quotes and feel like they could be said by any quarterback or running back who has suffered a blow to the head.  The players will always want to go back in the game – it’s their nature.  It’s up to the doctors and medical staffs to step in and protect their long term health when it comes to head trauma.

None of that happened with Pereira yesterday.  After getting up he was led off the pitch to the sideline.  Once play restarted he was instantly waved back on to the playing surface like nothing had happened.  He got kneed in the skull!  Anyone who watched that footage yesterday had to be shocked Pereira could keep playing, let alone maintain a vertical base.

ESPN analyst Taylor Twellman has become a leading voice on concussions ever since his MLS career ended because of them.  He’s even had a White House visit because of his work with his ThinkTaylor Foundation.  Twellman called out FIFA for allowing Pereira back in the game without so much as a check-up on the sideline.

FIFPRO, the respective players union, came out strongly against FIFA and the clear lack of concussion protocol in the wake of the Pereira incident:

FIFPro is calling on FIFA to conduct a thorough investigation into its own competition concussion protocol which failed to protect Uruguayan footballer Alvaro Pereira during the World Cup match against England on Thursday, June 19.

The World Footballers’ Association is seeking urgent talks and immediate assurances that FIFA can guarantee the safety of the players, which must be priority number one, for the remainder of this tournament and beyond.

In the absence of that, FIFPro is considering alternative solutions such as independent medical practitioners appointed by FIFPro for all future FIFA competitions.

FIFPro also calls for a review of the laws of the game so that a player with a suspected concussion can be temporarily replaced whilst being diagnosed.

The fact that FIFA could be out to lunch on an important issue is the least surprising news you will hear today.  You can add concussions to the ever-expanding list of where soccer’s world governing body has truly failed.  That doesn’t make this any less important though.  Pereira saw out the 90 minutes yesterday… but what if he hadn’t?  What’s it going to take for FIFA to seriously overhaul and even create a stringent concussion policy that is in the best interest of player safety?  With this happening at the World Cup, this incident should inspire FIFA to act now.  We should all hope it happens before it’s too late.