Ecuadoran soccer player Cristhian Noboa went up for a header during his team’s match-up against France on Wednesday, but instead of getting the ball, Nobboa knocked his head right into the head of French player Blaise Matuidi. When he landed, Noboa’s scalp was bleeding profusely, and he lay in pain as medics examined him, then ran to the sidelines, wincing.
Rather than sitting out to get examined, however, Noboa immediately donned peculiar a gauze hat contraption and headed straight back into the game:
Throughout the World Cup, player after player has gone down with what looks like a serious head injury, only to return to the game mere seconds later. In perhaps the most disturbing example of this, Uruguayan player Álvaro Pereira appeared to go entirely unconscious for several seconds during a match last week, only to re-enter the game immediately upon waking.
Following that incident, the players’ union chastised FIFA for improper oversight and concussion management.
“Football is awash with incidents in which players suffer potentially concussive blows to the head and stay on the pitch. In Pereira’s case, he demanded to play on, overruling advice from Uruguay’s team doctor for him to be immediately substituted,” the union said in a statement.
Behind the problems, however, are soccer’s actual rules. The game limits substitutions to three per match, and a player who is subbed out of the game cannot return. That means that if one player suspects he might have a concussion, he has a disincentive to report it, because it may get him permanently pulled from the game.
The players’ union has called for a special, temporary concussion substitution to alleviate this problem. But such substitutions are not currently permitted.