ESPN Analyst Taylor Twellman Expresses Concern With How FIFA Handles Head Injuries
On June 19, 2014, Alvaro Pereira, Uruguayan footballer, was struck unconscious after his head collided with Raheem Sterling’s knee during the second half of the World Cup. Although Pereira got up and walked off the field, he was clearly dizzy. The team doctor signaled to the sideline for a substitute, but Pereira refused to be replaced and continued playing the full ninety minutes, helping Uruguay in its 2-1 success.
Current ESPN analyst and former American national team member, Taylor Twellman, expressed his concern about one of FIFAs most basic rules. A team manager has three choices when it comes to head injuries. He can allow a proper concussion evaluation that takes about eight minutes, leaving the team to play with only ten players until the process is complete. The team manager can also make use of a substitute and lose the best player for the rest of the match, because once a player is replaced, he cannot re-enter the game.
The last option is to trust the injured player and have him continue the game at the next dead ball. Pereira continued playing without a proper concussion evaluation. Taylor Twellman suggests that FIFA should permit temporary substitutions in the case of head injuries, allowing sufficient time for the injured player to be tested. If the player is not cleared in twelve minutes, he then cannot return.
In 2012, Junior Seau committed suicide after a twenty-year National Football League career. Seau suffered Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a progressive degenerative disease of the brain. CTE has been known to affect athletes, boxers and football players with a history of repetitive brain trauma.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, even mild contact in football can cause lasting brain damage. Patrick Bellgowan, director of cognitive neuroscience at the Laureate Institute for Brain Research in Tulsa, says studies indicated abnormalities in the brains of previous National Football League players. Former football players had a smaller volume in the region of the brain that is responsible for emotion and memory compared to men who just suffered repeat concussions. The study found that while their memories were not impaired; their reactions were slower, and it took longer to answer questions.
Daryl Johnston, former Cowboy’s fullback, experienced three concussions in his NFL career. He said he tried to help the league deal with issues such as head trauma. Johnston warned Roger Goodell, NFL commissioner, that the danger of concussion injuries will not easily go away.
NFL allegedly knew about the dangers of repetitive brain trauma. Around 4,500 plaintiffs sued the National Football League for withholding important information. NFL wanted to settle for $765 million, but the judge feared it will not be enough to pay all claims and put the settlement on hold.
Head Trauma in Youth Football
A cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Texas’s Center for Brain Health, Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman, says helmets used in American football need to be altered from weapons to protective head coverings. Dr. Chapman suggested that the helmets should be cushioned inside and be made of nanofibers for enhanced brain protection. She also supports a thirty-minute brain test after every season to determine damages that might have occurred. According to Sandra Chapman, head injuries in one season can cause measurable brain damage.
A study conducted at Dartmouth College, Hanover, involved 159 students. All the sports were played by both women and men, except for football. After the season, all the participants took wide-ranging mental performance tests and received MRI brain scans. Football and hockey players experienced greater changes compared to those who played non-contact sport. Studies also suggest that some brains do heal after a while. A Purdue University biomechanical engineer, Eric Nauman, says if the MRI can pick up structural changes it is very worrisome.
Brain Damage Linked to Soccer
Soccer is the most popular sport in the world. Soccer balls travel at about fifty miles an hour and there is nothing between the leather and skull. A recent study conducted by researchers at Boston University discovered that heading a soccer ball over a long period of time could lead to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy.
Patrick Grange passed away from Lou Gehrig’s disease nearly two years ago, and his brain was donated to Boston University. Grange played soccer for the University of Illinois and the University of New Mexico. A neurologist at Boston University, Dr. Ann Mckee, says even though there is no definite proof that the disease was caused by heading the soccer balls, it is noteworthy that Patrick Grange was the frequent header of the ball. Most people diagnosed with the same disease as Patrick Grange, are typically between the ages of forty and seventy. Grange was only twenty-seven years old.
The recent study conducted at Boston University showed there is a definite link between brain damage and soccer. Taylor Twellman suggested that FIFA should allow temporary substitutions in the case of head injuries and allow sufficient time for the injured player to be tested.