Commentary: Premier League must learn from MLS on dangers of concussion
English soccer is revered around the world; the Barclays Premier League watched by millions.
Many of those ardent followers will have recoiled in horror on Sunday, as the knee of striker Romelu Lukaku delivered a sickening thud to the side of goalkeeper Hugo Lloris’s head in the game between Everton and Tottenham.
Lloris lost consciousness, while Lukaku required an ice-pack on his knee and sat out the rest of the game, such was the force of impact.
I'll repeat, because clearly this fact was lost on so many inside Goodison Park ... the player lost consciousness.
Tottenham’s substitute goalkeeper, Brad Friedel, was limbering-up on the sideline, ready, willing and expecting to replace his fallen teammate.
But no, he wasn’t required, as the Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas proudly declared afterwards: “The call always belongs to me. Brad (Friedel) was ready to come in but the person Hugo is, there were enough signs for him to continue.”
In other words, Lloris was brave enough to shrug off the collision and carry on. Don’t worry that the 26-year-old couldn’t even recall the incident!
The British media only serves to perpetuate the macho myth. This was the headline in the Daily Mirror, a popular tabloid newspaper:
Hugo Lloris praised by Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas for heroic display after being knocked out
He had no recollection of what had just happened, and was in no position to make any clear decision. The fact that medical staff tending to him declared him fit to continue makes matters even worse.
But Tottenham aren't the only guilty party. It's since emerged that Lukaku himself played through a concussion earlier this season. Again, the word 'brave' was used to describe the player's determination to continue, though it's clear the words best suited for this are 'ignorant', 'foolish' and 'irresponsible' (on the part of the players' club).
My eyes have been opened since arriving in the States, and we know only too well the dangers attached to concussion here at the Colorado Rapids. Rookie of the Year contender Dillon Powers was forced to miss the last month of the season after sustaining a head injury in the 5-1 win over the Seattle Sounders on October 5.
Pablo Mastroeni missed most of the 2012 campaign due to concussion-related issues. Further afield yet still on our MLS doorstep, ex-New England Revolution striker Taylor Twellman was forced to retire from soccer and still suffers today, because his concussion was not properly treated.
Since Twellman's sorry story (outlined above in a Rapids Report feature which aired in September), strict protocol has been introduced to MLS. Rapids midfielder Powers was required to sit out at least a week and then be put through a series of rigorous tests to determine whether he was well enough to return.
The doctors overseeing a groggy Lloris on the pitch on Sunday took a matter of minutes to determine that a player who had been knocked out was perfectly ok to ‘soldier on’. He underwent a brain scan in Liverpool on Sunday night, and was given the all-clear within hours of the clash with Lukaku.
Tottenham have done their player or themselves few favors, and even sought to play down the scale of the incident afterwards, suggesting on the official website: ‘The France goalkeeper suffered a knock to the head following a collision with Everton forward Romelu Lukaku … and was cleared to resume playing after examination by the Club's medical team.’
A ‘knock to the head’?? He was battered. The young man was knocked out.
The inability to tell it how it is only serves to allow the club, and others, to fail to see it how it is. Blind to the dangers of concussion, and seemingly deaf to the cacophony of criticism which has been bellowed from the roof-tops - particularly here in the USA but also from FIFA, the English players' union (The PFA) and by a brain injury charity, Headway - the English game needs educating.
An entertaining, enthralling and engrossing spectacle to watch, the Barclays Premier League is light years ahead of MLS in so many ways.
But when it comes to the invisible dangers of concussion, this most high-profile of professional leagues has the approach of a Sunday morning pub team.