FIFA needs to get on the clue bus

 Argentina’s Javier Mascherano returned to play quickly last week after sustaining a head injury. Diego Azubel/European Pressphoto Agency via NYTimes

Argentina’s Javier Mascherano returned to play quickly last week after sustaining a head injury. Diego Azubel/European Pressphoto Agency via NYTimes

I know that I sound like a broken record when it comes to concussions but apparently the message is not being received. So I feel compelled to broadcast again and again and again and again the importance of careful management of head trauma.

I did not follow the World Cup but received information about the Pereira incident from a colleague. The poor response on the part of the Uruguayan team and from FIFA was widely criticized by many, not just yours truly. Hope sprung up in my brain that FIFA had received the message and that world football was on its way to being a safer sport. Then I read the excellent NYT article by Juliet Macur. It turns out that Argentinian player Javier Mascherano “cracked heads with a Dutch player” just last week!! As Ms Macur so aptly puts it:

“Spectators didn’t need a medical degree to realize that he [Mascherano] had hurt his head, and probably his brain, and that someone with a medical degree should properly evaluate him.”

And yet Mr Mascherano played on. There was no mention of the Dutch player and so I am guessing that he played on too. To add salt to this open, gaping wound, FIFA is spending a bizarre  amount of time, energy and political capital on combating the practice of diving, pretending to be injured to gain a time-out. As Ms Macur points out, there has even been entertainment of the idea of instant replay to detect diving. Any mention of instant replay to double check whether a player was hit in the head? Any movement toward taking head trauma seriously? No and no.

This must stop.  We all should be able to play sports, professionally or for fun, and also have fulfilling, brain-healthy lives. Signing on to play sports does not have to be a Faustian deal with dementia, memory loss and brain degeneration. Let’s get this right. Come on, FIFA, get a clue; everyone else has. Now is the time to step up and do the right thing.




  1. Prof. Mason, thanks to your MOOC, I have a new-found respect for our brains. In fact, the past couple of days when I have been people-watching (on vacation in Vancouver), all I can visualize is the upper half of people’s heads and wonder that they are the source of people’s postures, gaits, gesticulations, expressions, moods, motivations, goals, and dreams. It is incredible.

    So I agree with you–we should take the brain more seriously and give it special attention in sports…and elsewhere.


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