Player safety in peril, head injuries mount as FIFA’s Great Brain Robbery continues at World Cup

On Friday Switzerland’s Steve Von Bergen paid the price for FIFA’s leniency towards dangerous play at the World Cup in Brazil.

In the opening minutes of his team’s clash against France, Von Bergen took an unintentional but horrific kick to the head from Olivier Giroud. Surely a red card or at least a yellow, right?

Surprisingly no!

The expected discipline never came from Dutch recipe Bjorn Kuipers and none of his assistants appeared to be concerned enough for Giroud go into the books.

Have a look at this 7th minute replay and judge for yourself in this Youtube post if Giroux deserved to be sent off even though his actions were unintentional.

France turned the tide of the match shortly after this ugly incident and went on to win 5-2.

The impact of the dangerous challenge again exposed FIFA’s flawed and behind-the-times approach concerning head injuries and concussions. The problem has intensified at this years World Cup seemingly outweighed with a desire by the governing body to speed games up and eliminate time-consuming stoppages.

Such frivolous luxuries such as player safety have fallen by the wayside.

Meanwhile back in the dressing room with Von Bergen, his face streaming with blood, the decision is made to rush the player to the hospital. According to reports from the BBC and CBC Von Bergen is suffering from a suspected broken cheekbone and possible damage to his eye.

We warned you about this problem in our last post when we asked the question: Where have all the cards gone?

That came in response to another incident of dangerous play which went unpunished. American Clint Dempsey suffered a broken nose after taking a kick to the face from John Boye of Ghana in Match 14 and Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson also chose to not punish Boye and continue with the recent trend of leniency. 

Giroud and Boyse’s fouls may have been unintentional but the rule book is very specific about reckless play and demands referee’s have zero tolerance for such offences whether the intent is there or not.

“Reckless” means that the player has acted with complete disregard to the danger to, or consequences for, his opponent. • A player who plays in a reckless manner must be cautioned “

It is admirable to learn today that governing body is looking at altering its substitution rule to allow temporary subs when a player has a suspected head injury.

However, the move is not voluntary and comes in the wake of an incident during Match Day 8 when England’s Raheem Sterling accidentally clattered into his fallen opponent Alvaro Pereira of Uruguay with a knee the head.

Sterling’s knee also appeared unintentional and since Pereira was on the ground when the contact happened, the offence was not a bookable one for referee Carballo of Spain.

FIFA can be congratulated for its move suspend Pepe of Portugal after his red card for intentionally brushing his head against his opponent Thomas Muller from Germany during match 12 flashpoint on Monday.

But the larger issue of player safety and several other unpunished cases of violent conduct are not isolated incidents and too overwhelming to ignore.

The players union has attacked FIFA’s protocol, asking for an official inquiry and a demand that a better job is done to protect player safety.

”Football is awash with incidents in which players suffer potentially concussive blows to the head and stay on the pitch. In Pereira’s case, he demanded to play on, overruling advice from Uruguay’s team physician for him to be immediately substituted,” the players’ union, FIFPro said in a statement reported by The Associated Press.

If FIFA’s approach continues, not only will head injuries at this year’s World Cup continue to mount, we will also be reading much more about the long-term effects of brain trauma for football players in the years to come.

North American professional leagues like the National Football League and the National Hockey League have made attempts to reform their ways concerning concussion and head injury protocol after a wave of lawsuits alleging negligence by the two leagues to protect player safety and properly inform them about the risks of concussion and head injury.

More pain killers will be needed, the headaches and sleepless nights will get worse until FIFA and professional leagues around the world properly address this issue.

The disturbing reality is that FIFA has clearly directed its officials to go on a yellow card diet and lighten up on the discipline. Once again the governing body have lost the plot as more horrific consequences loom.