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Proposing a radical rule addition to protect players
by Randy Vogt, July 17th, 2014 9:03PM

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TAGS:  referees, world cup 2014

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By Randy Vogt

The best World Cup ever? Not if you are concerned about player safety.

Referees have been told for the past decade about the dangers of head injuries. With players on the ground holding their head or with players who appear to be woozy, I stop the game immediately no matter where the ball is on the field, no matter the age group or level of play.

Just as I stop the game whenever I believe a player could be seriously injured, as “Law 5: The Referee” states. The player is then substituted, which is generally not an issue as he or she is replaced while perhaps being evaluated on the touchline.

In the World Cup, we had three instances where players with possible concussions returned to the field before they were properly evaluated, putting themselves in real danger. In the first scenario, Uruguay’s Alvaro Pereira was knocked cold by a knee to the head during a first round game against England. With him lying on his back unresponsive, team trainers tried to slap him awake. After waking, he signaled to his coach that he wanted to play again. He was off the field for less than two minutes. Later, Pereira said that “the lights went out” after he was hit in the head.

In Argentina’s semifinal game against the Netherlands, Javier Mascherano hit heads with a Dutch player. He spent a little more than two minutes on the touchline while play continued before he returned to the game. That’s approximately four minutes before he should have returned if he had received a proper neurological evaluation to determine the extent of his head injury.

In the final, Germany’s Christoph Kramer went down after his head hit the shoulder of an Argentina defender as the ball was tackled away from him. I’m not a doctor but I could see from the TV coverage that he was glassy-eyed as he was walking by the touchline, being attended to by the German trainers. So why was he allowed to return to the field a few minutes later? The return was short-lived, though, as he remained woozy and could no longer continue.

There are huge risks in playing with a head injury, including sudden impact syndrome, which can occur when a player with a concussion sustains another before the first one has healed. The result could be fatal, although that’s rare. Players who return to the field too early or experience repeated concussions could be setting themselves up for a lifetime of headaches, sensitivity to light and sound plus chronic fatigue.

The reason that these players returned to the field so soon is their team was playing short since if they were substituted, they could not return to the game. That’s why I am proposing an addition to Law 5. So in the future, when a player with any injury comes off the field to be evaluated and is not substituted, the opposing team must take a player off the field as well. Until the injured player returns to the field or is substituted. This change would also affect “Law 3: The Number of Players.”

Also with professional games, players with head injuries need to be evaluated by a doctor with no connection to either team, not the team doctor, to determine if the player is healthy enough to return to the game. A translator who speaks the languages of the teams and the doctor would also be provided, if necessary. I am hopeful that with this change in the rules and with a change of a neutral medical professional doing the evaluation, we no longer will be putting soccer players with head injuries back into the game before they are ready.

The NFL recently learned the hard way -- through thousands of players suing the league for concealing what it knew about head injuries -- that players with concussions should not return to the field until they have fully recovered from their injuries.

Even President Barack Obama weighed in on this issue last year, saying he's a football fan but that if he had a son, considering the impact the game has on its players, he would think long and hard before allowing his son to play. He specifically mentioned concussions as a major issue.

(Randy Vogt has officiated over 9,000 games during the past three decades, from professional matches in front of thousands to six-year-olds being cheered on by very enthusiastic parents. In Preventive Officiating, he shares his wisdom gleaned from thousands of games and hundreds of clinics to help referees not only survive but thrive on the soccer field. You can visit the book’s website at www.preventiveofficiating.com)


25 comments
  1. Jeff EAst
    commented on: July 18, 2014 at 9:15 a.m.
    Wimps print this ish. This is all so some sports medicine doctor can make millions off those ridiculous head gear. "Even Barack Obama weighed in on the subject." Ha ha. Has he gotten anything right, and last time I checked he was the president not a doctor. randy Vogt you and Taylor Twellman are both #ussies!

  1. ROBERT BOND
    commented on: July 18, 2014 at 9:19 a.m.
    How about 1 extra sub for the 30' overtime?

  1. ROBERT BOND
    commented on: July 18, 2014 at 9:24 a.m.
    So when will you be posting how crazy it would be to have the 2018 World Cup in Russia?

  1. Terry Ellis
    commented on: July 18, 2014 at 9:27 a.m.
    Jeff You are an idiot! Did you see how badly injured the German player was? No way should he have been allowed back on the field and most medical personnel at soccer games are donating their time not making millions off of sideline evaluations. If a player is knocked out or has any loss of consciousness then they need to be fully evaluated for concussion. This cannot be done at the field side and MUST be done in a qualified medical facility. So that means a sub--no questions asked. And just so you know I am a medical professional. I can only hope that you would treat your son or daughter with more care than you show for these players. No matter the level, it is still JUST a game.

  1. Gus Keri
    commented on: July 18, 2014 at 9:39 a.m.
    Randy, I agree with you on every thing except the idea of taking one player off from the other team while a player being evaluated. A better idea, I believe, is to allow a temporary substitution as long as the player being attended to on the sideline. This temporary substitution wouldn't be counted against the team 3 substitutions.

  1. Jim Lindsay
    commented on: July 18, 2014 at 9:51 a.m.
    I agree 100% with Gus. Allow a free sub for the player who may be concussed. If he is then judged safe to play, he may come back in the game, again for free. This idea should be at least experimented with in a few associations. This would only be for possible concussions, because they are so hidden and so dangerous in the long run.

  1. Walt Pericciuoli
    commented on: July 18, 2014 at 10:01 a.m.
    Agree with Gus and Jim, substitution rules could be relaxed to allow a player to be properly evaluated before returning to the pitch. limited subs are the reason coaches are hesitant to replace a player.

  1. Kevin Sims
    commented on: July 18, 2014 at 10:57 a.m.
    Agree with idea of "free" sub during evaluation period ... Agree that "Jeff" posting is idiotic & probably not genuine

  1. Jeff EAst
    commented on: July 18, 2014 at 12:17 p.m.
    Terry it's no wonder you have a girls name. Did the German player live? End of story. Game over. He will be fine and so will all of us that suffered through concussions and lived to see another day. Man up. How many concussions do you think a boxer gets in just one fight? More than all of us in our entire lives.

  1. uffe gustafsson
    commented on: July 18, 2014 at 12:56 p.m.
    Jeff, how about not posting your stupid crap on these sites. No one like stuff like that.

  1. Kent James
    commented on: July 18, 2014 at 1:08 p.m.
    I agree with the consensus which is free sub while the player is evaluated by an independent medical professional who makes the determination if the player can continue (at which point the temporary sub is either left on as a permanent replacement,or comes back off and the original player resumes playing), and that Jeff probably suffered too many of the concussions he seems so nonchalant about...

  1. Kent James
    commented on: July 18, 2014 at 1:11 p.m.
    The only tricky part of using a temporary sub is if the team is out of permanent subs, then when the doctor determines the player cannot continue, the temporary sub has to come off and not be replaced. There might be pressure on the doctor to either extend the evaluation period (especially if the player cannot continue) or to get the player back in the game (so they don't play short permanently). To avoid the former, there should be a time limit for the evaluation (8-10 mins seems right).

  1. Jeff EAst
    commented on: July 18, 2014 at 1:41 p.m.
    Yup change the game for the over diagnosis. I'm fine with a fourth sub just generally speaking. But I'm not for stopping the play over EVERY little head bump and for this new water break system.

  1. Jeff EAst
    commented on: July 18, 2014 at 1:50 p.m.
    How about if your team in the rare occasion already used the 3 subs and a head to head challenge is ruled serious. The player wants to stay on but this new over zealous doctor tells a grown man or woman that they can't go back on the field when the player says they are fine? They have to play a man down now? How about people being tired and wants to come out? Fake a head injury on the next corner and get a free sub? Please!!!!

  1. Futbol Genio
    commented on: July 18, 2014 at 2:11 p.m.
    CONCUSSION SYMPTOMS SHOULD MEAN MANDATORY SUBSTITUTION.

  1. James Madison
    commented on: July 18, 2014 at 2:54 p.m.
    As in any other case when a player is injured, medical judgment should rule on whether a player who has suffered a concussion should return to play. In the case of any injury other than a concussion no one objects to playing short temporarily until it is determined whether the injured player may continue or needs to be substituted. Why do it any differently while the severity of a concussion is being avaluated?

  1. charles davenport
    commented on: July 18, 2014 at 2:58 p.m.
    exactly, Jeff; which is why most, if not all, boxers suffer from Second Impact Syndrome and have brain damage that is sometimes significant.

  1. cisco martinez
    commented on: July 18, 2014 at 7:05 p.m.
    FIFA should definitely have a head injury protocol. However, many players including myself are reluctant to tell a coach because many players want to play despite an injury. I've had two concussions in a week playing collegiately and the only reason I was pulled from playing was that I couldn't see. The German midfielder was pulled because he was dazed and fell to the floor, Bedoya was hit in the head and could have easily been pulled against Germany, Peter Czech had a cracked skull and a medical ambulance wasn't even available, and Hugo Lloris kept playing after getting kneed in the head and was out cold. The only rational response is a doctor intervening.

  1. Alex G. Sicre
    commented on: July 18, 2014 at 8:45 p.m.
    Right Cisco, go back to hockey Jeff.

  1. Walt Pericciuoli
    commented on: July 19, 2014 at 9:34 a.m.
    If all 3 subs have already been used and a player suffers a head injury, he can be temporarily subbed while being objectively evaluated. If it is deemed he cannot return, then the temp sub also comes out of the game and the team plays short,same as when any other injury occurs after all 3 subs are used.

  1. I w Nowozeniuk
    commented on: July 19, 2014 at 11:36 a.m.
    Jeff E, spoken like an macho ignorant simpleton. If u ever played the game, u surely know too little about it.

  1. Barry Ulrich
    commented on: July 20, 2014 at 5:46 p.m.
    You've used your 3 allotted subs, and a foul occurs that is not witnessed by any of the referees. The result is a broken leg. Why should a team have to play short in this instance? Yet the LOTG would have the injured player's team play a man down. No wuss here - the player cannot continue with a broken leg, so what is the answer?

  1. stewart hayes
    commented on: July 20, 2014 at 10:57 p.m.
    The game would be irreparably damaged if FIFA changed the rules to allow more substitutions. 23 on the bench and only 3 subs can be used. That's the way it is and it can't be changed. To hell with concussions, broken limbs or players falling to the turf with cramps. Seriously though, I'd like to see more players participate. Of course it would not hurt the game and coaches could freely remove those who cannot or should not continue.

  1. ROBERT BOND
    commented on: July 21, 2014 at 10:02 a.m.
    helmets are inevitable..

  1. R2 Dad
    commented on: July 21, 2014 at 11:41 a.m.
    Any revision to the substitution rule would invite manipulation by the players and managers who employ the dark arts to their advantage.


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