Late in the second half of Tottenham’s 0-0 draw with Everton in the Premier League Sunday, keeper Hugo Lloris took a very nasty-looking knee square in the forehead from an on-running Romelu Lukaku. Lloris lay prone on the ground briefly while the medical team raced in. When it was all said-and-done, the player who left the game was?
Yep, you guessed it — Lukaku, who needed to ice his knee after the collision.
A dazed-and-confused Lloris remained in the game and even made an impressive save on Gerard Deulofeu to preserve his clean sheet.
As an American — no exaggeration — this was among the most shocking incidents we’ve seen so far in the season that began in August.
For well over a year the concussion/CTE problem revolving our version of gridiron football has been a topic everybody but the NFL wants to talk about. The Frontline documentary that aired last month was eye-opening and jarring. Parents are thinking more-and-more if they want to allow their sons to strap on the pads and play “America’s Game.”
And yet, across the pond potential sports-related concussions apparently aren’t under the same level of scrutiny.
Take what Tottenham manager Andre Villas-Boas said after the match. In fairness he — or we for that matter — didn’t know whether or not Lloris suffered a concussion (nor is he a licensed medical practitioner), but comments like this in 2013 are borderline disturbing:
“Hugo still doesn’t recall everything about the incident. It was a very difficult moment for us and I am happy he is well. … I made the call to keep him on the pitch because of the signs he was giving. He was determined to continue and looked concentrated, driven and focused enough for me not to make the call to replace him. The saves he did after the incident proved that right.”
Bear in mind these remarks came from Villas-Boas, a hip, fashionable 36-year-old with a penchant for stubble and scarves. That said, his statements about Lloris would have sounded at home coming from the mouth of any red-faced American football coach wearing way-to-tight athletic shorts with a whistle dangling around his neck circa 1974.
Monday the team released a statement that Lloris took a precautionary CT Scan and was given the all-clear to return to London. The club’s head of medical services, Wayne Diesel, said, “Once the relevant tests and assessments were carried out we were totally satisfied that he was fit to continue playing.”
Yes, some probably applauded Lloris’ toughness for staying in the match. Years ago it would have certainly been commendable, under the old “rub some dirt on it” mentality. Manchester City club legender Bert Trautmann famously finished an FA Cup Final with a broken neck … in 1956.
From what we all continue to learn about concussions/head/brain injuries it always makes sense to air on the side of caution. Was jeopardizing Lloris’ long-term well-being worth an additional 15 minutes between the posts? Surely Brad Friedel could have held down the fort to close out the match, he has played in over 475 league matches in England, after all.
The fact Villas-Boas would admit Lloris wasn’t exactly sure what happened and might have temporarily lost consciousness is almost hard to believe sitting across the Atlantic. While the later tests proved Lloris was technically “okay” the process which Villas-Boas the club operated is still very dicey.
Via the BBC, the English Football Association’s policy for head injuries reads:
All clubs shall ensure that any player having left the field of play with a head injury shall not be allowed to resume playing or training without the clearance of a qualified medical practitioner. The same provision shall apply where a head injury is sustained in training.
FIFA’s top medical officer, Professor Jiri Dvorak, said the following when questioned about the Lloris issue:
“The fact the other player needed ice on his knee means it’s obvious the blow was extensive. It’s a 99% probability that losing consciousness in such an event will result in concussion. I know that the Premier League doctors are extremely good and I can imagine that the doctor may have recommended he be replaced. We have a slogan: if there is any doubt, keep the player out.”
There are some policies in place, which is encouraging but it appears the majority of English don’t follow international concussion guidelines. It’s probably partially why Villas-Boas and the Tottenham staff still felt comfortable playing Lloris an ahead 15+ minutes , when he could have been on the way for tests. The court of public opinion in 2013 American sports wouldn’t allow this. Villas-Boas would be criticized on the top of every sports show across the land. In England, the discussion about concussion doesn’t seem to be at that point, which could be a reason why Spurs felt comfortable risking it.
However you break it down, it shouldn’t have been in Villas-Boas — or worse — Lloris’ hands to decide the course of action. They got lucky since Lloris — to his utter credit — managed to finish the game. Imagine if he’d collapsed again or vomitted or something to that effect? If there’s any good to come from this situation, it’s that it brings the concussion issue into discussion for the Premier League.
The reward for playing Lloris those final 15-odd minutes wasn’t worth the risk, go ask the NFL. Maybe once Roger Goodell gets his wish to stage 16 games a year in Wembley Stadium our friends across the Atlantic will catch up on brain injury awareness. Let’s hope it doesn’t take that long.