FIFA's ongoing concussion crisis was highlighted in Sunday's World Cup final when German midfielder Christoph Kramer got cracked from a shoulder to the head early in the first half. He was allowed to play for 14 more minutes, largely because FIFA has no concussion protocol and no independent doctors at the matches to evaluate the players.
Nicola Rizzoli, the ref for the final, said on Thursday to Gazzetta dello Sport that Kramer approached him after the jarring collision and asked him whether he was, indeed, playing in the World Cup final.
“Shortly after the blow, Kramer came to me asking, ‘Ref, is this the final?' I thought he was joking and made him repeat the question and then he said, ‘I need to know if this is really the final.' When I said, ‘Yes,' he concluded, ‘Thanks, it was important to know that.'”
If you're Rizzoli, what are you supposed to say at that moment?
“I don't know anything at all about the first half. I thought later that I left the game immediately after the tackle. I have no idea how I got to the changing rooms. I don't know anything else. In my head, the game starts from the second half.”
If that quote isn't reason enough for FIFA to amend its non-stance on concussions, then, if nothing else, it should at least give its referees the power to make a decision if the player isn't certain he's actually playing in the most important game of his life. Of course that's a subjective decision, but for Kramer to not realize the circumstances would likely fall at the far extreme of that subjectivity. It was only after Kramer stumbled to the ground that he was taken off.
Kramer, Argentina's Javier Mascherano and Uruguay's Alvaro Pereira all suffered severe knocks to the head throughout the World Cup but were allowed to return to the field. At some point, possibly now, FIFA will regret not having a policy to deal with such head injuries.