Soccer’s treatment of head injuries under new scrutiny
BASEL, Switzerland (AP) — With soccer’s treatment of head injuries again under scrutiny, Switzerland has withdrawn defender Fabian Schaer from its next European Championship qualifying game.
Schaer was briefly knocked unconscious on Saturday during a first-half clash of heads against Georgia, though was allowed to continue playing. He created both second-half goals in a 2-0 win in Tbilisi.
The Swiss soccer federation said on Monday the Newcastle player has been judged unable to face Denmark by team doctors, 24 hours after issuing a statement defending the same staff’s assessment to let him play on in Georgia.
Still, Schaer questioned the decision in an Instagram post on Monday stating his desire to face the Danes in Basel.
“I really wanted to play and, as always, give everything for the team and Switzerland,” he wrote. “But unfortunately this time the decision is not in my hands.”
Team doctors followed FIFA guidelines to keep the 27-year-old Schaer from returning to action three days later, the federation said on Monday.
Euro 2020 organizer UEFA was urged to investigate the incident by a British non-profit group campaigning for better awareness of brain injuries.
“Put simply, the decision to allow Fabian Schaer to return to the field of play after suffering a clear concussion was not only incredibly dangerous, but also a clear dereliction of duty,” Headway chief executive Peter McCabe said on Monday in a statement.
FIFA revised its concussion guidelines after the 2014 World Cup when players continued to play on despite obvious distress from head injuries.
In the final, with a television audience of hundreds of millions, Christoph Kramer collapsed to the turf before being substituted. The Germany midfielder had played on for 14 minutes after a collision with an Argentina opponent.
The problem flared again at last year’s World Cup where team doctors’ new authority to remove players was ignored by Morocco winger Noureddine Amrabat. He refused to be substituted against Iran and played in the team’s next games.
In UEFA-organized games this month, Schaer’s case follows a Champions League game in Barcelona, where Lyon goalkeeper Anthony Lopes was allowed to play on for several minutes before asking to be replaced.
On Saturday, Schaer and Georgia defender Jemal Tabidze clashed heads midway through the first half, and the Swiss player slumped to the turf. He was assessed for at least three minutes on the field on Saturday, as FIFA guidelines require.
After facing international criticism, the Swiss soccer federation issued a statement on Sunday defending the medical’s staff decision because Schaer showed no worrying symptoms. He was checked again before being allowed to board a four-hour flight home from Georgia that evening.
In his Instagram post, Schaer confirmed he lost consciousness for a short time, but wanted to face Denmark.