Someday soon a terrible accident is set to unfold on your television or at your local stadium and the league that arrogantly proclaims itself the best in the world will pay a hefty price; but for now its another case of ‘chive on.’
If you happened to be enjoying the holiday Monday afternoon in your living room or local pub and watching the Sunderland-Liverpool match, you would likely declare what you saw in the closing minutes as “archaic and disgusting.” BTW, They are also words that best describe the beautiful game’s pathetic attempts to address concussions and head injuries in the beautiful game.
A head injury suffered by Sunderland’s Papi Djilobodji in the 89th minute of their 2-2 tie with Liverpool on Monday is another grave warning that the English Premier League’s concussion protocol remains in the dark ages.
The Senegalese centre back clashed heads with Liverpool’s Belgium international striker Divock Origi, in a nasty collision that saw Djilobodji require the assistance of trainers and several minutes to get to his feet.
But instead of exiting the field permanently, Djilobodji was rushed back into action by training staff and with the approval of referee Anthony Taylor, without anyone questioning the decision. It quickly became apparent to anyone watching that Djilobodji was groggy and slightly dazed and confused.
It was clear that both team training staff and referee Anthony Taylor, shouldn’t have allowed Djilobodji to continue but at some point there was a shocking disconnect by both. Origi also appeared to injure his head on the play and was also slow getting to his feet but stayed in the game and never left the field and this seems to have been a major oversight as well.
Again the age-old, ‘get-on-with-it’ and ‘it’s a man’s game’ philosophy prevailed here and it was a disgusting display of bad judgement on many fronts.
Besides those who aren’t blinded by the prospects of results, profits or both its clear that Djilobodji wasn’t right and shouldn’t have continued. Almost immediately he was forced to play the ball and missed-time the clearance then shortly afterwards another tackle. Can you imagine if had suffered another blow to the head or was forced to immediately head the ball?
While out-of-form Sunderland and manager David Moyes were clearly under pressure to produce a result, and couldn’t deal with the prospect of losing one of his top players his team did have a substitute left.
Even if the player indicated to training staff that he was okay it continue it was painfully clear he wasn’t alright. That is where referee Anthony Taylor should have steeped in and used his common sense and best judgement. It didn’t happen and Djilobodji was wrongly allowed to return to the field. It didn’t happen and proves the league’s concussion protocol isn’t being enforced by team management or league officials and referees.
England’s concussion protocol introduced in November 2015 – much later than most other professional sports leagues had instituted their own concussion protocols – is abundantly clear stating “There must be no return” to the field of play if a player is suspected of suffering a concussion. But on the afternoon of Jan. 2 we saw none of that from the league that calls itself the top professional football league in the world.
The law should go further and not be simply used as a hollow PR campaign. It should allow teams suffering a head injury to insert an extra substitute into the match thereby taking the pressure off managers to play concussed and dazed players.
Djilobodji finished the match and there was no immediate update of his medical status available immediately following the match. Moments after Djilobodji returned to the match, social media lit up with Tweets and facebook posts of disbelieving soccer fans criticizing referee Taylor and Sunderland training staff for allowing Djilobodji to continue.
One Tweet by @BillBarnwell noted that match commentators were “basically laughing off the injury” while another from fan @TulsenTollettdeclared the situation an “absolute disgrace.”
Where have we seen this before? Well besides numerous times during the FIFA 2014 World Cup in Brazil, as recently as last September in the EPL when a similar high-profile incident. That involved Manchester United’s Anthony Martial and led to similar hand-wringing by the unbiased and neutral majority of soccer fans watching on television across the globe who truly realize the seriousness of concussions and head injuries.
What happened in Monday’s match needs to change, and change soon before a similar situation which results in a much more unhappy ending. Can you imagine if after being forced back into the match either Martial or Djilobodji had collapsed and were rushed to hospital, suffered permanent long-term injury, brain damage or died? I don’t think they are ready for the amount of negative publicity that will generate.
This is why other contact sports like American Football, basketball, baseball and hockey have instituted much more stringent concussion protocol policies and actually enforce them when head injuries occur.
English professional football is currently an accident waiting to happen and also a major liability for those so greedy and short-sighted to believe they can get away with this. Not only does the Djilobodji incident drive home the point that results and team profit still prevail over player safety and common sense but it is also sending out the wrong message and reinforcing old-school head injury approaches.
The players demand better, the fans demand better!