FanPost

Concussion Debate and Potential Solutions

After a World Cup that featured a few players return to the field after encountering "that player should not return to the field" concussion scares, I am interested in seeing how FIFA reacts (or doesn't) to the concussion wave that has already affected a number of sports. Simply put, players are hurting their heads, possibly getting concussions; however, these players continue playing despite the risks. I fear this will lead to players suing leagues, commissioners, associations, fans, women, children, soccer balls, and whatever else they can find within the next couple decades in a similar way NFL players have gone to complaining about the injuries they received long ago. If FIFA were to act now, perhaps it would tone down the criticism they receive daily. Personally, I just want to watch the sport and not listen every match to analysts talking to Taylor Twellman about his career ending early from unfortunate concussions.

Discussion time. What should FIFA do? Are there rules that need changed? Should FIFA do nothing? I've listed a few ideas below that I've hear over the last month.

Leather Helmets
Well... I suppose it's safer. Everyone would look funny though and it would take a long time for players to adjust to moving around with these things on their heads. A whole new helmet would have to be designed to allow players to still aim the ball upon contact with their heads. This system may also encourage more dangerous applications with players' heads. Players will have a sense of invincibility. "I can't possibly hurt my head while wearing this helmet, right? I'm just going to fling myself into more dangerous situations because I can't possibly get hurt." I feel that is the course of action NFL players have taken as they continue to develop high tech helmets. Better helmet equals greater possibility to use your head. It's a trade-off. Are helmets the right solution? Tell us why or why not in the comments section below.

Temporary Substitutes
This can get complicated. Bring the injured player off for evaluation and put a healthy player on during the evaluation. If the injured player is deemed "concussion free", then he may return to the field and the substitution comes off. The problem? How much time do physios need to determine a concussion has taken place? Can a concussion be determined on the sidelines? What if players just fake a concussion so their team gets an extra sub? It becomes a judgment call. Don't we have enough of those for the referees already? How would you handing a Temporary Subs rule? Let us know below.

Eliminate the 3 Subs Rule (and Allow Players to Return)
This is my recommended solution, but also the most drastic. I have said for years if there is ONE rule to change or get rid of in this sport, it's the limited subs rule. If a player is tired, get him off, give him some Gatorade, put him back out there. Players in the 60' will run after that long cross because they don't have to conserve their energy for the 90'. The pace would pick up because they know they can come out to catch their breath and get some water whenever they need to. For injuries, concussions included, a coach doesn't have to think to himself, "Do I want to use one of my subs for this? Maybe the injury isn't so bad. Get back out there and keep playing." If there is even the thought of concussion, get the player off without penalizing the team with the use of a valuable substitution as the coach has unlimited substitutions. We've seen this system ever since we were kids growing up. Granted, professional soccer would have to alter how players are substituted. We can't just stop play to let a player walk off wasting a minute on the clock. It has to be quicker, but quick substitutes are used elsewhere in fast-paced sports like hockey. Give the fourth official something more to do. Manage substitutions, making sure there's always 11 players on the field. The field is much bigger than a hockey rink. Coming off leaves your position unmanned until the sub reaches it. The ball is outta play frequently though and my memory says the kid leagues didn't slow down too much calling for a substitution when the ball was out of play. Then again, we had to go run after the ball when someone skied it over the crossbar.... I digress... Let FIFA work out the details, but get rid of the substitution limit. It slows the game down late as players are tired and it prevents injured players from being subbed out if the injury doesn't look all that bad (like some concussions). What do you think about the substitution limit? It's a tradition, but is it time for this tradition to end?

Soccer is a sport that uses athletes' heads as a beating object. Almost every player is guaranteed to hit the ball with their head at some point each match. In order to get an edge over an opponent, a player may jump to hit the ball with their head first. However, that opponent may not want to get beat and will also hit his or her head and jumps for the ball as well. Now we have two airborne players attempting to hit one ball with two heads. Collisions will occur. This is so basic in the sport of soccer. Can you just get rid of it? The ideas above are just a few solutions to the concussion problem soccer faces today. What do you think of these ideas? What new ones do you have? Let us know in the comments section below.