The world looked on nervously as Fernando Torres was stretchered off the field after suffering a nasty head injury on Thursday against Deportivo. Torres and Alex Bergantinos clashed heads competing for an aerial ball, with the former falling face first on the ground after going limp in the air, hitting his temple in the process.
It was a nasty sight, as both Atletico and Deportivo players rushed towards the Spanish attacker’s aid, frantically signaling for medical help. Solemn, worried faces filled the whole stadium as they looked on the lengthy treatment process and ‘El Nino’ being carried towards the ambulance on a stretcher.
Fortunately, the world breathed a sigh of relief, as Torres gave the thumbs up a day later, confirming that the injury wasn’t serious, and describing it as only a ‘scare’. The scans showed no signs of trauma, concussion or injury.
Muchas gracias a todos por preocuparos por mí y por vuestros mensajes de ánimo. Ha sido sólo un susto. Espero volver muy pronto!
— Fernando Torres (@Torres) March 2, 2017
This incident put the situation of head injuries into light and was a scary example of how these injuries can be so risky. Let’s delve deeper into head injuries and concussions in football.
A football head injury
Head injuries in football take place mostly during aerial challenges when players clash heads or get a boot kicked on as one player tries to compete for a ball using his head. Knocks on the head are also suffered when players clash heads on an object (like a goalpost) or on the ground.
When a player suffers a head injury
As soon as a player suffers a collision on his head, the medical team rushes towards the player’s aid. Delays in the arrival of the medical team and treatment process can lead to the risk of the injury being more serious. It’s very important for the medical team to react quickly during this type of injury.
If there is a loss of consciousness, the player is carried off the field and to the hospital in serious scenarios followed by regular assessments off the pitch.
Rules regarding head injuries
Basic and inferred rules indicate that medical stuff must react quickly in case of an injury like this. The player must be taken off with the slightest proof of loss of consciousness and must be carried to the hospital in case the injury is serious.
“If you continue to play after you've had a concussion and you suffer a secondary knock, that secondary knock can significantly exacerbate the damage to the brain and cause real problems," according to the Luke Griggs from Headway Brain Injury Association.
— Sports Innovation (@SportsInnovNet) September 19, 2016
Before the inception of the 2014/15 Premier League season, the FA, backed by UEFA and FIFA, introduced new rules regarding head injuries in football.
- The club doctor decides whether the player should be withdrawn from the field or not, not the club’s manager, coach or player.
- The player must rest for 24 hours after the injury and isn’t allowed to make a return to football for the next 6 days at least.
- All Premier League players must also undergo a pre-season neurological assessment as part of their annual medical check-up to help doctors measure their recovery rate should they sustain a head injury during the season.
(Courtesy of Sky Sports)
Notable cases in football
The Fernando Torres incident left everyone speechless, with the air in the stadium sucked out and anxious thoughts clouding everyone’s brain. We look at more such incidents in the past, which caused similar concern towards the player’s well-being.
To this day, he carries a visual memoir of that unpleasant moment which took place in 2006, as his helmet-shaped headgear has now become an iconic part of his on-field kit. Just 20 seconds into the Premier League game vs Reading, Hunt’s boot caught the 24-year-old shot-stopper’s head, before bouncing off the pitch. A lengthy treatment was followed by him being dragged outside the touchline, stretchered off the field, collapsing in the dressing room and then taken to the hospital nearby, where scans revealed he had a depressed fracture. 2 pieces of skull fragments were retrieved from the brain, and metal pieces were inserted into the skull. He resumed services 3 months later, donning a helmet to protect his head from future injuries. This injury did not stop him from becoming one of Chelsea’s greatest keepers of all time.
— ble rpts (@alrau_ne) January 21, 2016
— Joe Brown (@JoeBrownArtist) August 31, 2012
This injury was suffered on the training pitch but was a nasty one nonetheless. A light-hearted training game led to a serious, bloody gash on Rooney’s head after it met Phil Jones' boot. The extent of the injury was not known visually as it happened behind the scenes, but this changed soon. The United striker’s commitment to the England squad was questioned due to a poor record and lack of appearances. This led to Rooney posting a picture of his wicked gash, which silenced critics and haters alike. England teammate Theo Walcott described it as “something out of a horror film.”
— Gee Gee Jay/Gy Gy Jy (@GethinPandy) October 11, 2013
16 minutes into the Capital One Cup final in 2016, Sakho clashed heads with team-mate Emre Can. He was back on his feet soon after but appeared groggy. He proceeded to make 1 or 2 minor errors which led to the crowd roaring to take him off. But it was 7 minutes after the head clash, that Sakho presented a clear-cut chance to Aguero, but fortunately for Liverpool's sake, the City striker hit the post with Sakho embarrassingly falling on the pitch. This undoubtedly prompted the manager to take the French defender off, enraging him in the process. Klopp later claimed that Sakho looked dizzy and everybody thought it was best to take him off.
More than a few felt for 23 year old Christoph Kramer, as his first competitive start for Germany suffered a heavy blow after just 30 minutes into the 2014 FIFA World Cup final. The defender’s head and face suffered the impact of Ezequiel Garay’s shoulder. He appeared dazed but continued to play. A few minutes later, he came up to referee Nicola Rizzoli and asked him, “Ref, is this the final?” He kept repeating this a few times before the referee informed his teammate Schweinsteiger who in turn informed the staff and manager to take the dazed and confused Kramer off. This incident revived concerns about the way football deals with head injuries, as similar injuries were suffered by Argentina’s Javier Mascherano and Pablo Zabaleta, and Uruguay’s Alvaro Pereira, without them being taken off. Head injuries were taken more seriously since then, and rules were revamped.
— gerardo (@Gerrard_Fonseca) July 19, 2014
— Nevs Klabudatsch (@klabudatsch) November 9, 2014
Head injuries, if not tended to properly, can lead to serious consequences. Props to footballers who lay their life on the line competing for the ball, and choose to play on and represent their club rather than resting when they suffer from concussions, but it’s extremely important that football ensures the health of the players come first and injuries don’t lead to long term problems or worse.