In a tournament that didn’t need another symbol of FIFA’s lax attitude toward concussions, we have the best evidence yet that the governing body needs to change its policies right now. In the 17th minute of the World Cup final, Germany’s Christoph Kramer was struck inadvertently on the left side of his head and fell to the ground in clear distress.
He stayed in the game for roughly 15 more minutes after that brutal knock to the skull, and was clearly suffering the effects of the blow. When he was finally, mercifully substituted out of the game, Kramer appeared glassy-eyed. It’s a wonder that he managed to stay on the field that long, and it’s a wonder that Germany's team doctors allowed him to do so.
In Argentina’s semifinal match against the Netherlands, defender Javier Mascherano cracked his head and went right back in the game. The same thing happened earlier in the tournament with Uruguay’s Álvaro Pereira. In the New York Times, Juliet Macur noted, “Whether FIFA plans to change how it deals with game-time concussions is unclear, but what is obvious is that it didn’t do anything quickly enough to protect players like Mascherano.” She added, “Right now, though, FIFA is showing its cowardice by saying the onus is on the team doctor to determine if a player is healthy enough to return to the match. It’s as if FIFA hasn’t been following the issue of head injuries in sports at all.”
Business Insider’s Cork Gaines points out that coaches are reluctant to use any of their three substitutions on account of a head injury. He proposes a reasonable-sounding solution: “FIFA is going to have to allow special temporary substitutions when a head injury is suspected, something already being tested in Rugby. Allow teams to enter a substitute while the injured player is tested along with a time limit on the return of the player (e.g. if the player is not cleared to return in 12 minutes, he cannot return).”