Tottenham Hotspur's goalkeeper Lloris is attended to by medical staff after being involved in a collision with Everton's Lukaku during their English Premier League soccer match at Goodison Park in Liverpool

Spurs leaving Lloris in at Goodison proves English soccer miles behind on head injuries (video)


Hugo Lloris never should have been allowed to continue at Goodison Park.  End of story.

With the Spurs goalkeeper appearing to have been momentarily knocked out by Romelu Lukaku’s knee, the woozy and foggy player fought ferociously to stay on the pitch.

Lloris won protests by the medical staff, his captain Michael Dawson, and manager Andre Villas-Boas, staying on in favor of the substitute Brad Friedel.

In allowing his player to run back onto the field, AVB failed his players and proved that when it comes to head injuries, the Barclays Premier League lacks greatly in both the knowledge of head injuries and how to properly and safely deal with them.

It’s ironic that Lloris was injured by Lukaku.  Clearly unintentional, the imposing Belgian forward had dealt with the same situation just over a month prior, admitting he doesn’t even remember scoring a goal thanks to a blow to the head – which he was allowed to not only continue after, but played a full 90 two days later.

(MORE: Romelu Lukaku situation shows need for Premier League concussion policy)

With one instance, the argument can be made that a need for a policy change is in order (as you can read from Liviu Bird in the link above).

But a flurry of instances this season? Policy is no longer the fix.  A need for education is in order. Education on not just the consequences of serious head injuries both immediate and long-term, but education for medical staff and coaches on how to simply tell a player “no, you cannot go back in.” Former US international and current ESPN fixture Taylor Twellman agrees:

Guess what? AVB after the match said Hugo Lloris can’t remember getting knocked out. He then proceeded to laud his player for his assertiveness in the situation. What a surprise.

It was clear that nobody but Hugo Lloris wanted Hugo Lloris on the pitch after watching what happened. And yet Hugo Lloris ended up back on the pitch.  That is a problem.

This isn’t Spurs first head-injury mishap this season, either.  Just last week, AVB admitted winger Andros Townsend was unconscious and needed oxygen when medical staff arrived to treat him after falling over a video advertising board.  He returned to play in the match.

Stoke City defender Robert Huth was knocked out in September against Manchester City. He played the full 90.

Many in the United States have argued that the National Football League as well as the NCAA has taken things too far regarding head injuries, changing the game itself in an attempt to protect players.  While that may be true, there is no doubt that if the type of injury Lloris sustained had happened in the NFL, and the player had been allowed to come back on, a full investigation would be launched, fines would be issued, and staff members may even lose their jobs. Obviously a much more violent sport, a head injury is a head injury, and should be dealt with the same no matter the sport.

source: Reuters
Romelu Lukaku, having clattered Lloris and maybe knocked him out, immediately called for trainers.

Major League Soccer also has much stricter rules regarding head injuries.  As Liviu points out, MLS requires every single player to undergo baseline testing before the season starts. Following an incident such as the one at Goodison today, the player would immediately be substituted and must prove symptom free – and even then must be cleared by a neuropsychologist – before resuming any type of activity.

Research and evidence have proven time and time again in recent history that head injuries in sports have not just serious but long-lasting effects on the lives of players both during and after their careers.

Adrenaline, recklessness, passion, and youth often drive these players to desire to play through such injuries, and it is the job of the staff to prevent them from doing so.

As Liviu cited in his story about Lukaku, there is also a complete lack of a structured system for teams and players to follow should they sustain a head injury.

The official policy, as cited in the 2013-2014 Premier League official handbook, states, “Any Player, whether engaged in a League Match, any other match or in training, who having sustained a head injury leaves the field of play, shall not be allowed to resume playing or training (as the case may be) until he has been examined by a medical practitioner and declared fit to do so.”

What kind of a “guideline” is that? It’s a disaster that the Premier League has such a lackluster structure in place – no structure whatsoever – to deal with serious and dangerous injuries such as this.

Hopefully this incident will, unlike Lukaku’s, drive the Premier League to institute some type of structure to force teams to act on behalf of player safety.  If they don’t, nobody will, and it is the players who will suffer – mightily.

Here is video of the incident:

Serie A: Napoli go top for first time in 25 years; Inter a close 2nd

Gonzalo Higuain, SSC Napoli
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A quick roundup of Monday’s action in Italy’s top flight…

Napoli 2-1 Inter Milan

For the first time since the final day of the 1989-90 season, Napoli are top of Serie A all by themselves after a top-of-the-table clash with previous leaders Inter Milan.

Gonzalo Higuain bagged both goals for the Azzurri, the first of which came after just 65 seconds. His tally on 62 minutes held up as the game-winner after Adem Ljajic pulled one back for Roberto Mancini’s side in the 67 minute. The opener (below video) was a powerful finish from inside the penalty area which served as a strong reminder as to why a club like Arsenal is consistently linked to the Argentine striker.

Sassuolo 1-1 Fiorentina

Fiorentina, who had a chance to stake their own claim to the top spot, dropped two points away to seventh-place Sassuolo earlier in the day, opening the door for Napoli to go top with their victory. After shooting out of the gates red hot (6 wins in their first 7 games), the Viola have now drawn back to back games — to Empoli and Sassuolo — and find themselves third, two points behind Napoli.

Borja Valero put Fiorentina ahead after five minutes on Monday, but Sassuolo equalized through Sergio Floccari just before halftime to keep their own dreams of European qualification alive.

Serie A table

Matchup by matchup: Picking a favorite for MLS Cup 2015

Portland Timbers FC
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We’re T-minus 137 hours to the kickoff of MLS Cup 2015, between Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

When the two sides meet at MAPFRE Stadium on Sunday (4 p.m. ET), the general public will have picked a slight favorite to hoist MLS Cup, just like any other game. Only, this one’s a bit tougher to call — there’s no clear-cut favorite as is usually the case in MLS Cup, so we’ll do our best to explore a few key matchups that might slant Sunday’s title tilt in one direction or the other…

Crew SC width (Waylon Francis, Harrison Afful, Justin Meram, Ethan Finlay) vs. Timbers width (Jorge Villafana, Alvas Powell, Rodney Wallace, Dairon Asprilla)

  • Pinning the wingers back — There’s two ways to beat Crew SC: 1) sit with eight or nine men behind the ball and frustrate them through a lack of space to attack; or, 2) pin Finlay and Meram deep inside their own half, defensively, by getting your full backs forward and forcing them to defend. It’s doable, but it’s not easy. On the other side, best of luck to Wallace and Asprilla with the tracking back they’ll be forced into with perhaps the best attacking right back in MLS, Afful, and Francis overlapping on either side. Fanendo Adi could find himself on an island very quickly if the Crew SC full backs get forward as often as they’d like.
  • Where the help comes from — That’s the biggest issue for Portland, who ever since dropping Darlington Nagbe into midfield, play with a lone defensive midfielder, Diego Chara. He’s great at covering the entire field and providing help to blow up an opposing attack, but he can only be on one side of the field at a time. This means Borchers and Ridgewell will be stretched wider and forced to defend Finlay and Meram in space, where they’re oh so deadly.
  • Advantage: Crew SC

[ MORE: Crew SC announce MLS Cup sold out 15 hours after qualifying ]

Kei Kamara vs. Nat Borchers and Liam Ridgewell

  • All it takes is one chance — Neither one of Borchers or Ridgewell can physically compete with Kamara’s rare combination of speed and athleticism — to be fair, few center backs this side of the world can. Therefore, 90 percent of “defending” Kamara will be staying tight to the 22-goalscorer during the regular season and, with any luck, not losing track of him once the ball gets out to the wings. Once Kamara gets that yard of space in any direction and the ball goes up on the cross, the center backs’ chances of winning the next ball are much, much lower. That said, Kamara will find far less space against Borchers and Ridgewell (and Diego Chara) than he enjoyed against Montreal and New York thus far in the playoffs. There’s very few center back duos with the experience and nous of the Timbers’ backbone.
  • Advantage: Timbers

[ MORE: Beckham group abandons yet another stadium plan, site in Miami ]

Timbers midfield three (Diego Chara, Darlington Nagbe, Diego Valeri) vs. Crew SC midfield three (Tony Tchani, Wil Trapp, Federico Higuain)

  • Nagbe the key to balance — Darlington Nagbe will, one day, be an MLS Best XI central midfielder. Today is not that day, though. He’s still a work in progress, and probably the most exploitable individual on the field in Crew SC’s eyes. Tchani and Trapp are, in my opinion, the best deep-sitting midfield duo in the league, and they’ll press, harry and harass Nagbe for 90 (0r 120) minutes, probably starting a fair few of those deadly counter-attacks in the middle third of the field.
  • Advantage: Crew SC

[ MORE: Timbers reach first MLS Cup | Crew SC to host MLS Cup 2015 ]

Gregg Berhalter vs. Caleb Porter

  • Lineups set themselves — Neither coach is likely to throw out a huge surprise before kickoff — dance with one that brought you, or something like that. Up until recently, I was completely convinced that Porter was vastly overrated and didn’t understand the constant adoration that surrounded the man his first two or three years in charge. Everything was a bit stale and rigid, organized, but lacking flair. Then he moved Nagbe into midfield to allow his biggest game-changer more opportunities on the ball to affect the game much more. This leads me to believe Porter is a bit more flexible in seeing his team and system operate in slightly different ways, but only barely.
  • Advantage: Timbers

Crew SC announce MLS Cup 2015 sold out 15 hours after qualifying

Wil Trapp, Columbus Crew SC
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The building formerly known as Crew Stadium has hosted its fair share of famous soccer games since it opened in 1999 — dos a cero, anyone? — and Sunday’s MLS Cup 2015 looks set to rank right up there among them.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

Roughly 15 hours after advancing to this year’s MLS Cup, which they will host this Sunday (4 p.m. ET), Columbus Crew SC announced on Monday that MAPFRE Stadium is officially sold out.

Crew SC president of business operations Andy Loughnane addressed the fanbase in a blog post on the club’s official site Monday afternoon and said, “As of late this morning we are sold out of the extra capacity seating that was created for MLS Cup at MAPFRE Stadium. While there is a small chance that additional seats could be released for purchase as a result of MLS holds being returned, we are sold out of all known available seats.”

[ MORE: Beckham group abandons yet another stadium plan, site in Miami ]

Crew SC, making their second MLS Cup appearance in club history (2008 champions), will host first-time MLS Cup contestants, the Portland Timbers, on Sunday.

PL clubs combined to pay out $200 million in agent fees in 2015

Liverpool Unveil New Signing Christian Benteke
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What a time to be an agent in the footballing world, eh? The rich just keep getting richer and richer and richer.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

The steady increase in transfer fees being paid for players — bad, good, great and amazing alike — has made quite a few “selling” clubs rich reach over the last decade or two, to be sure, but it’s also made another group of people obscenely rich: player agents.

As the soccer world has gone crazy with its “now, now, now” approach — managers must win now, or they’re fired; new signings must become stars now, or they’ll be sold; etc. — agents are the ones making out like bandits — no losses to be sustained on players who turn out to be flops; no future loss of wages due to taking “too long” to settle in and being labeled a flop — at the expense of clubs and, most cruelly, the players.

More than $195 million was paid out agents by Premier League clubs across the January and summer transfer windows, with Liverpool — ever the club in constant change — paying out $21.5 million in agents fees to remain top of the table for a second straight year. Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal were the four other clubs to top $15 million.

[ MORE: Premier League Payback — The Diego Costa era over at Chelsea? ]

Agents not only receive a fee when players change clubs through transfers, but can only be compensated again and again when one of their clients signs a new contract with their current club.

For instance, Wayne Rooney has signed at least four new contracts since joining Manchester United in 2004, the latest of which came barely three years after he was given a new five-year deal in Oct. 2010 upon handing in a transfer request in an attempt to force a move to Manchester City. Rooney’s current weekly wage is reported to be in the neighborhood of $450,000. His agent, Paul Stretford, will have received a sizable payday upon negotiating the deal in Feb. 2014.

At the end of the day, sports are little more than a business, and it’s the ones who play the game — the political game, that is — the best, and most ruthlessly, who are making out like bandits.