Concussions are a major problem across all sports, not just American football. If it wasn’t a hot button topic of discussion before today’s Arsenal and Chelsea 0-0 draw, it needs to be now. What happened (or what didn’t happen to be specific) to Oscar after he collided with Arsenal keeper David Ospina shows just how far the English game has to go in treating concussions and taking them seriously.
Oscar’s collision with Ospina might have been enough to bring out the trainers in an NFL or an NHL, game so the decision to leave him on the pitch for the rest of the first half after what looked like a sure concussion is absolutely shocking. It was later revealed that he was taken to a hospital as a precaution at halftime, which made the situation even worse, and made Chelsea and the Premier League look like they don’t take concussions too seriously.
In his postmatch interview, Jose Mourinho said that Oscar “went to hospital to [have] some scans to see what is going on because at half time we were a bit scared.” But evidently not scared enough to take him off immediately and instead leave him on the pitch and risk further injury.
The Premier League has not dealt well with purported concussions at all this season with the new regulations on head injuries, which have proven to have gaps in them large enough to drive lorries through. Oddly enough, Chelsea didn’t deal well at all with a possible concussion for their keeper Thibaut Courtois in the reverse fixture against Arsenal back in October. Courtois stayed on the pitch 10 minutes after being involved in a clash with Alexis Sanchez before finally being substituted. He did not have a concussion after being taken to a hospital as a precaution.
Maybe it’s only because of the NFL’s concussion crisis in the US that concussions have been put under the microscope of examination, but from wherever the increased concern about head injuries has come from, the Premier League needs to follow suit. After the high profile incident with Hugo Lloris at Goodison Park last November, and two from the World Cup involving Alvaro Pereira and Christoph Kramer, it’s time for action.
The Premier League can say they took action with their new head injury protocol but it has become abundantly clear that it is either not working at all or not being interpreted correctly. Even if it negatively affects a team’s overall performance, players need to be substituted immediately if there is any remote suspicion of a concussion, for their safety and benefit. On field diagnoses are often shaky, so determining someone doesn’t have a concussion when they easily might have one anyway is way too risky for any club or any player.
Adding another substitution for only when a player is subbed off to due injury is one way to combat this crisis on the pitch, but even then world soccer might not be going far enough. Concussions are too serious of an issue to be taken lightly, and there are too many incidents where the wrong decision has been made in letting a player continue on when it’s clear they shouldn’t.
Maybe today’s collision will be the final straw, but so many said that after Petr Cech’s injury, and then Hugo Lloris’, and then Christoph Kramer’s.
That final straw is too far away for anyone to be comfortable. Something must be done.
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