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How soccer concussions are low key a bigger problem than you think

Concussions are a hot topic across the sports world right now. The NFL especially has come under fire for its treatment of players and head injuries.

It’s hard to watch a football game and not see a player stretchered off with some serious injury, whether that’s a head injury or not.

While the NFL is under the most scrutiny as it comes to concussions, other sports have serious issues treating brain injuries as well.

The NHL has been widely criticized their concussion protocol. There are supposed “concussion spotters” who watch every play and assess collisions and have the authority to pull players after a traumatic hit.

But that protocol has failed with high profile cases like Sidney Crosby, who has suffered innumerable concussions, missing 114 games in his career due to concussion complications.

It makes sense that football and hockey would have higher instances of concussions, they are major contact sports with huge dudes flying at each other at full speed. It doesn’t take a scientific study to see that football and hockey might be dangerous sports for the brain.

But now, a research letter in the The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reveals that soccer, and its international governing body FIFA, has its own issues with traumatic head injuries.

Study author Dr. Michael D. Cusimano and his research team watched all 64 games of the 2014 World Cup, assessing how medical staff attended to players who had just collided or displayed the many symptoms of a concussion.

The results are rather staggering.

The team of doctors identified 81 different collisions that could be a possible head injury, based on basic concussion symptoms.

Of the 81 collisions, only four players were actually taken out of the game and seriously looked at. That is a shockingly low number.

Cusimano told the CBC that external factors prevent doctors from keeping the players safe, namely that we don’t take player safety seriously,

“Only in a minority [of cases] are people being actually assessed by the sideline personnel. What’s at stake are often millions of dollars… and it often boils down to money and power. We put a person’s health as a secondary issue — or maybe as a tertiary or quaternary issue.”

One of the most high-profile and blatant instances of the concussion protocol failing was in the World Cup final between Germany and Argentina.

Germany’s Cristoph Kramer took a blow to the head that clearly knocked him out and disoriented him, but Kramer continued to play for 14 minutes before collapsing to the ground and being substituted.

This is serious stuff. The World Cup is viewed by billions of people and viewers can see the problem in front of their eyes, but at the grassroots level concussion protocol has to be followed to protect the safety of young or amateur players.

As we start to understand concussions more, sports will surely continue to change. Perhaps we will have to sacrifice certain techniques or attitudes in the name of player safety.

And that’s a good thing.