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Resources May 03, 2013 takes Abby Wambach, NWSL to task on concussion handling

Abby Wambach sustained a concussion in the Washington Spirit vs. Western New York Flash NWSL game at the Maryland SoccerPlex on April 20, and just about everyone involved with the situation badly botched its handling.

That was the case persistently made by veteran journalist Stefan Fatsis, who was attending the game with his young, soccer-playing daughter, and this week the league, which is run by the U.S. Soccer Federation, finally admitted as much.

“On Wednesday, the National Women’s Soccer League did the right thing,” wrote Fatsis on this week. “It admitted that Wambach did sustain a concussion in the final minutes of a road game against the Washington Spirit. It conceded that the referee erred in barring medical personnel from coming onto the field to examine Wambach.

“It admitted that Wambach should have been removed from the game. And it pledged to use the episode to better inform players, coaches, trainers, and fans about the risks of head injuries.”

The U.S. Women’s National Team star was struck in the head by a teammate’s wickedly-hit clearance in the closing minutes of her team’s 1-1 draw against the Spirit and was clearly woozy.

But referee Kari Seitz did not allow trainers on the field to examine her, Flash coach Aaran Lines did not substitute her out and both team and league officials neglected to provide the media or the public with information about her situation after the game.

Abby Wambach is hugely popular among young fans – and missed an opportunity to educate them about the risks of head injuries.

“This is a situation that wasn’t handled as we should have handled it,” U.S. Soccer spokesman Neil Buethe told Fatsis. “This is for us now a case study. We’re going to break it down and explain how it should happen going forward. We’re going to use it as a learning experience.”

Fatsis – who harshly criticized the concerned parties in two other articles after the incident last month – praised the league and the federation for coming clean eventually.

Yet it’s still a sobering reminder of the head injury risks that are inherent to soccer, and the lingering lack of awareness (even at the game’s highest levels) about the dangers, and the procedures necessary to minimize risk.

On Friday asked Ali Krieger, Rachel Buehler and other members of the Spirit and fellow NWSL club Portland Thorns FC on a media conference call whether they felt that NWSL had proper procedures and player education measures in place regarding concussions. All refused to answer.


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