JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A bloody head to head collision during the Women’s World Cup semifinal Tuesday night is shining the spotlight once again on the issue of concussions on the field.
Soccer continues to grow in popularity on the First Coast and local coaches say education too is on the rise when it comes to player safety.
Jacob O’Brien, Girls Head Soccer Coach at Bishop Snyder High School, says he cringed as USA’s Morgan Brian and Germany’s Alexandra Popp collided in the air then fell to the field in a heap mid-match.
“It was scary on both sides, you know, seeing the gash, and obviously when you see blood on the screen it’s a bit of a shock,” said O’Brien.
It’s a scene O’Brien says he hopes to never experience under his watch. But the daunting reality is that it could happen.
“When you’re going after that ball, you’re giving it everything you’ve got. And when you’re up in the air, you’re not really paying attention to those around you,” said O’Brien. “So you’re going after that ball and you have another player next to you going hard after that ball and a lot of times there’s head to head collisions.”
He explained that the Florida High School Athletic Association requires every coach to go through a concussion course to learn the ins and outs of head injury safety.
“We understand our players and we know what to look for,” said O’Brien. “We’re checking their eyes, checking their movement, looking to see if skin color changes, if they’re sweating, complaining of headaches or neck aches or pain anywhere in that area.”
Brian and Popp quickly returned to the match following the jarring blow. And while many people wary of FIFA and its motives blasted the organization on social media, Coach O’Brien says he’s hopeful the trainers who checked out both women made their decision with the players’ safety in mind.
“This is one of the most popular games in the world and sometimes there’s that big drive to win, but the coaches really need to consider the player first,” said O’Brien.