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By On July 11th, 2018

World Cup semifinal brings soccer’s concussion problem into focus

It’s not a World Cup without several shocking scenes that highlight how little FIFA really cares about concussions.

This year’s international competition has already been criticized for incidents where players dazed players were “treated” for head-first collisions with being slapped and sprayed with water in the face.

Now, Tuesday’s semifinal match between France and Belgium has led to another ridiculous mishandling of an obvious on-field head injury.

Late in the game, France’s Blaise Matuidi took a hard hit to the head during an in-air collision with Belgium’s Eden Hazard. Matuidi immediately fell to the ground, clearly dazed and was taken off the field.

If the story ended there, all would be well. Injuries happen during games, and FIFA has a six-step concussion protocol that mandates players be removed from a game after an apparent concussion for a health assessment.

However, Matuidi was back on the field after just a short moment, where he played for less than a minute before collapsing again. Only then was he substituted out of the game. On the way, cameras caught Matuidi attempting to squirt water in his mouth but missing, which was seen by many as more evidence of his concussed state.

The incident caused widespread criticism, especially across Twitter. Several prominent advocates shared video of the ordeal while calling for better enforcement.

As many have noted, both the shocking incidents in this year’s World Cup should have been prevented entirely by FIFA’s concussion protocol. There should have been no question that Matuidi needed to be thoroughly evaluated after the collision. Any concussion assessment would not have allowed him back on the field.

But, France did not have a sub available to replace Matuidi. The team decided it was better to put his health at risk to maintain their lead and proceed to the final. Unfortunately, this is the norm in soccer. Until FIFA decides to take actual steps to enforce their own concussion protocols, neglecting concussions will be the standard response.

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