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Across the Pond: MLS must take head injuries seriously

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Chris Wingert’s nasty knock on Saturday deserved more than just a cursory glance.

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MLS: Atlanta United FC at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

I've told this story before so I'll do the short version. I became an RSL fan in 2010 when I played popular video game Football Manager and RSL offered me a job deep into the 2014 season. I won the MLS Cup and US Open Cup twice with them and the CONCACAF in the last season before I went to West Ham in the EPL. My affinity for the team meant that I instantly started supporting them and have done ever since.

I didn't know a lot about the league, but I knew of players I had signed on the game, and one such player was a now older Taylor Twellman, recently released from LA Galaxy. I signed him to my squad and his partnership with a computer generated player called Andrew Parker and support from DP Alexander Hleb brought RSL the only double we got. All I knew of Taylor Twellman is that he helped me turn RSL into a powerhouse attacking team and nothing else. It was only when I signed up to Twitter and followed him that I learned he had retired the season before I started to follow RSL because of concussion-related injuries. It's a very sad ending to the story of one of the best American forwards to play in the league and one that forced a change in the way teams view head injuries.

See, it wasn't until Hugo Lloris got knocked out yet continued playing that the FA decided to do something about head related injuries in the EPL a full two years after MLS had started work on the same topic. Teams have been very transparent about concussion related injuries even posting guides on them in locker rooms for each game. It's a big deal in a world where games are played faster and with more physicality each season and one that needs to be taken seriously to ensure leagues take care of the people that gave their bodies to entertain for the fans.

Which is why it was so frustrating to see Chris Wingert come back onto the field after his collision with Jeff Larentowicz in the 3-1 loss to Atlanta. The frenzy from medical staff and his lifeless state after the injury should have stopped play until he was taken off the pitch for evaluation, no questions asked. A full SCAT3 takes 10-15 minutes to do and substituting Wingert would have allowed the game to continue (although I don't care if it does, stop the game for 15 minutes if a players health is on the line) and Wingert could have got the care he needed right there.

MLS has lead the way historically on this subject and Twellman can take the credit for both inspiring and pushing forward these rulings with his fearless opinion on how any league handles head injuries. Don Garber has been proactive on this front too and make no mistake, MLS is years ahead of other leagues when it comes to these kind of injuries. Remember the horrific injury John Terry suffered in 2007? The official FA statement admitted that head injuries don't require a player to sit out a game meaning after swallowing his tongue and stopping breathing, Terry was able to play the next week (and would have if the staff at Chelsea hadn't taken the initiative). 7 years later and several more concussion injuries, the EPL did something about it.

MLS has to continue leading the way in terms of change in the sport. Stopping children under 10 heading the ball was a gutsy move but it was the right thing to do and the FA instantly suggested the idea back. MLS is an innovative league across the board and this is just another area where it can break the mold and change the world of soccer for the better. Taylor Twellman made a sacrifice, and his work campaignig that no other player should ever have to be put in that position and with MLS behind him America could change the game for good.


I'm in Warsaw at the moment with work so this one was short and sweet, light on the wisecracks, too, because it's a serious subject. I've been up close with people who are concussed and it's scary to see just how out of it people can be while still functioning as if nothing is wrong, if that makes sense? So make sure you're being safe at whatever level you're playing at. Anything can go wrong and somebody can be hurt in the blink of an eye in sports and if left unchecked any injury can affect a person for years.