Saturday 10 December 2011

Recognizing Head Injuries

The following incident occurred during the Champions League group match between FC Basel and Manchester United on Wednesday 7 December 2011. The match finished 2—1.

In the 9', two Manchester United defenders (Chris Smalling and Nemanja Vidic, in white) had a head collision and the ball rolled into the possession of the attacking team. Subsequently, the ball was crossed into the penalty area where a goal was scored. Here are the freeze frames:

Referee Björn Kuipers (Netherlands) did not recognise a clash of heads between two defenders (white) and instead followed the path of the ball. What has the EAR seen?

Question 1: What does the Referee need to consider during a head collision?

Question 2: What should have been the restart?

Regarding Injured Players, here are some of the Interpretations for "serious injuries":
o Play is stopped if, in the opinion of the referee, a player is seriously injured
o The referee must ensure an injured player is safely removed from the field of play
o A player is not allowed to receive treatment on the field of play

Exceptions to this ruling are to be made only when:
o a goalkeeper is injured
o a goalkeeper and an outfield player have collided and need immediate attention
o players from the same team have collided and need immediate attention [Effective 2010-2011 season]
o a severe injury has occurred, e.g. swallowed tongue, concussion, broken leg

Since the majority of Referees are not medical doctors or medically-trained, it is always safer to err on the side of caution especially when there is a clash of heads (hence, head injuries should be deemed a serious injury). A Referee who quickly stops play in response to seeing or being informed about a head collision will not—and should not—be criticised for stopping play. It would take a foolish and self-absorbed individual to criticise a match official for taking precautionary action regarding the safety of a player or players.

If readers do not believe a head collision should be regarded as a "serious injury", then they should take a look at an interesting story about traumatic brain injuries which are associated with accumulated heading of the ball (Soccer is bad for your health?). If repeated heading with a relatively soft ball over a number of years is associated with developing brain injuries, then it is quite reasonable to consider that a heavy blow or impact to the head with a relatively hard object (such as an elbow, foot or head) may cause an acute and therefore serious injury. With head injuries, it is always safer to err on the side of caution.

A Robot EAR

Once again, here is another example that demonstrated the limitation of the extra assistant referee (EAR) and his supposed duties. More data to add to the ineffectiveness of EARs. There were two important incidents that occurred in front of the EAR, but the EAR assisted with only one of the incidents.

The EAR did NOT assist the Referee about the head collision

The EAR assisted the Referee about the whole of the ball crossing the goal line during Man Utd's (white) attack
[Note itvSport's incorrect scoreline]

Therefore there is NO difference in the role of installing goal-line technology and in using EARs. Both fulfill the criteria of telling the Referee that the whole of the ball had crossed the goal-line between the posts and under the crossbar. But don't forget, UEFA, FIFA and IFAB made additional claims about the use of EARs. For instance, they claimed that EARs would 'assist' the Referee in matters concerning the identification of fouls, misconduct and incidents in the penalty area and in having a preventative effect on fouls and misconduct in the penalty area.

The head collision incident provided a great opportunity for the EAR to assist the R in stopping the game so that two players could receive treatment for head injuries, but instead the EAR chose to be a 'Robot' who focuses only on the goal line. Contrast this to the one single isolated example of an effective EAR who was willing to take a public stand because he knew the R had missed something significant.

If we want match officials to act like unthinking robots, then the future direction may as well be to invent robots to officiate matches. Robots that will just follow the Laws absolutely and will have no capacity for common sense or initiative. But that's not the real issue here. The real issue is that all along sensible and rational people have been in favour of using goal-line technology at the highest levels of the game so that human Referees would be assisted in matters concerning the scoring of goals. However, the dinosaurs (Platini, Blatter, and their "yes" men) dithered, dallied and delayed by introducing EARs. They made claims about what the EARs would do, but in reality the EARs are just doing what unthinking Robots would be doing; to confirm whether the whole of the ball had crossed the goal-line between the posts and under the crossbar.

Thus, there is NO difference in the role of having goal-line technology and in using EARs. Their roles are the same; although they differ in their inherent accuracy levels and in FIFA's demands of accuracy standards. There is little doubt that goal-line technology will eventually be installed at the highest levels of the game. And history will show that the Powers That Be merely delayed the introduction of goal-line technology by playing around and making a pig's EAR of an 'experiment' that used additional extra assistant referees.

Note: This incident is also interesting because one of the EARs (Dutchman Bas Nijhuis) had only the week before been on the receiving end of a great call from an effective EAR. Surely the Dutch Referee team must have discussed the situation and agreed on a plan of action for something similar?

The match officials were:
Björn Kuipers (NED)
Assistant referees
Sander van Roekel (NED), Erwin Zeinstra (NED)
Fourth official
Eric Braamhaar (NED)
Additional assistant referees (EARs)
Bas Nijhuis (NED), Richard Liesveld (NED)

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