EXCLUSIVE: U.S. ‘keeper Tim Howard agrees governing bodies can help with head injuries

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GLASGOW — Tim Howard has had plenty of whacks, bumps and bruises over the years and the U.S. national team veteran has brushed most of them off.

However he accepts, like many, that head injuries aren’t just something you should shake off and carry on playing with. And as we’ve all seen from multiple incidents in the Premier League lately, how to deal with concussions is becoming an issue.

On Sunday November 3 at Goodison Park, USMNT ‘keeper Howard stood and watched on in horror from the other end of the pitch as Tottenham Hotspur’s French international stopper Hugo Lloris was knocked unconscious after a nasty collision with Romelu Lukaku.

Remarkably Lloris played on after lengthy treatment from Spurs’ medical team. There was uproar from the press, doctors, governing bodies, the PFA and just about everyone else in between, as the way Premier League clubs treat concussions and head injuries was called into question.

(MORE: PFA demands players “should not continue after loss of consciousness” as Lloris incident hits home)

Teams, leagues and, most importantly, the players, need help.

I asked Howard if soccer’s lawmakers could perhaps set up better guidelines on how to deal with a concussion or head injuries, to help restrict the amount of long-term damage they could cause. Leaning forward and donning a concerned look on his face, Howard agreed that perhaps new guidelines would help.

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Tottenham’s French ‘keeper Hugo Lloris was allowed to play on despite being knocked unconscious against Howard’s Everton side. Spurs’ goalkeeper hasn’t played since.

“I think if you look at how American sports have dealt with concussions and all the disastrous information that have come out in studies about post concussion, yeah, there needs to be a precedent set through the governing bodies,” Howard agreed. “A simple, ‘hey are you all good?’ and a thumbs up… it’s not enough. It’s important that the governing bodies, as they have in American sport, make the laws so stringent because we know the repercussions of letting players play on, whether they’ve been knocked out or have concussions. We realize how bad concussions are.”

(MORE: New head injuries in the Premier League add to swirling cyclone of criticism – video)

Howard, who was talking to me after coming in from a windswept Murray Park in Glasgow as he prepared for the USA’s upcoming friendlies with Scotland and Austria, was adamant that if he’d have been the one knocked unconscious in Everton’s 0-0 draw with Spurs, instead of Lloris, he would’ve expected the Toffees medical staff to take him out of the game immediately.

So, did he agree with how Spurs’ medical team acted?

“That’s their decision,” Howard said. “I would hope that if I was knocked out in the game that my medical staff wouldn’t have given me the option, that they would’ve taken me off.”

(MORE: Andre Villas-Boas stands by Tottenham’s decision to let Hugo Lloris play on)

As Howard and I discussed the topic we both agreed that the medical staff at Tottenham, and those at any other PL club, shouldn’t be making decisions on players concussion symptoms in such a fast-paced environment where split-second diagnosis’ are often rushed unintentionally.

“I think it’s important, as you mentioned, that UEFA, FIFA, governing bodies, whomever, that the guidelines become more stringent,” Howard said. “It takes the guess work out of it and it takes decisions out of people’s hands.”

Everton loses Coleman to leg break on Ireland duty

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A horror tackle from Wales’ Neil Taylor snapped Seamus Coleman‘s leg in gruesome fashion on Friday.

Taylor was given a red card, and Coleman was stretched off the pitch in the 0-0 draw.

[ MORE: UEFA World Cup qualifying wrap ]

Ireland manager Martin O’Neill confirmed what was apparent from the match replay: the Everton man has a broken ankle.

“It’s a bad break. He’s a fantastic player and character. It’s a major blow for the lad, his club and us.

“Apparently it wasn’t the best challenge in the world – I haven’t seen it. He’s gone to hospital. I saw his reaction immediately and it didn’t look good. He was holding is leg up and it didn’t look good.

This is not only awful for the player, but causes stress as Everton mounts its assault on the Top Six. The right back has also manned right mid for Ronald Koeman this season, and has four goals and four assists in 26 Premier League matches.

Mason Holgate, Muhamed Besic, and Phil Jagielka have played some right back for Everton, while Ramiro Funes Mori has deputized at left back.

Emotional McClean speaks after honoring deceased teammate (video)

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After wearing the No. 5 to honor of his recently deceased teammate, James McClean met with the media following Ireland’s 0-0 draw with Wales in World Cup qualifying on Friday.

McClean played with Ryan McBride at Derry City, and left Ireland camp to attend funeral services after McBride died following a match last weekend. McClean was also mourning the death of friend and Sinn Féin politician Martin McGuinness.

Throw in a gruesome injury to teammate Seamus Coleman and, in McClean’s words, “I’ve had better weeks”.

[ MORE: UEFA World Cup qualifying wrap ]

McClean, 27, spoke with evident emotion following a Man of the Match turn in Ireland’s draw (video below).

“It was a really tough week. The lads here have been great. They rallied around me. The manager was first class as well. He let me go up to Derry there on Tuesday and say my goodbyes. It’s been a tough week with Seamus injury as well. It’d been nice if we had have got a win and ended on a positive note, but it wasn’t to be.

“(McBride and McGuinness) were going through my thoughts today. I wanted to put in a performance that would make them proud. In the national anthem and the moment’s applause, holding my wee girl, it was emotional but I tried to put that in the right way into my performance. Hopefully tonight I’ve done the lads proud.”

World Cup qualifiers: Wales in trouble; Buffon hits 1000

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Friday’s matches mark the midway point of the main round of qualifying in UEFA, and the tables remain tight near the top of Groups D and G.

[ MORE: Smalling hurt, Gibson called up ]

Group I, however, is seeing some distance between first and second thanks to Croatia’s result versus Ukraine.

Republic of Ireland 0-0 Wales

Neil Taylor was sent off in the 69th minute for Wales, whose World Cup hopes are in trouble.

Seamus Coleman was stretchered off after the tackle, with a scary-looking injury that will leave Everton fans sick in more ways than one. Coleman’s leg was broken, and left dangling by the challenge.

Ireland couldn’t take advantage of the sending off, and failed in a bid to overtake Serbia for first in Group D. The Irish trail on goal differential, and will host Serbia on Sept. 5.

But Wales will rue the result more, remaining four points back of second-place Ireland. Chris Coleman’s side drops a point behind Austria as well, and will not have Taylor or Gareth Bale (card accumulation) in its next match. That comes against leaders Serbia.

Italy 2-0 Albania

Daniele De Rossi scored a 12th minute penalty kick won by Andrea Belotti, and Ciro Immobile scored late to provided the goals in Gianluigi Buffon’s 1000th appearance for club and country. Fittingly, it ended in a clean sheet. The match was briefly delayed after flares were thrown onto the field.

Spain 4-1 Israel

David Silva, Vitolo, and Diego Costa stakes the Spaniards to a three-goal lead, with Lior Refaelov ruining David De Gea‘s clean sheet with 11 minutes to play. Isco scored the match’s final goal.

Spain remains atop Group G on goal differential, eight better than second place Italy. Israel is four points behind both.

Croatia 1-0 Ukraine

Fiorentina’s Nikola Kalinic’s 38th minute goal was enough for the hosts, and Croatia is now five points clear of Ukraine and three above Iceland midway through qualifying.

Elsewhere
Austria 2-0 Moldova — RB Leipzig’s Sabitzer nabs winner
Liechtenstein 0-3 Macedonia — Ilija Nestorovski bags brace
Kosovo 1-2 Iceland — Sigurdsson PK the match winner
Georgia 1-3 Serbia — Mitrovic, Tadic lead the way
Turkey 2-0 Finland — Brace for Cenk Tosun

Boro’s Gibson called to England after injury to Man Utd’s Smalling

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Scoring goals has been the biggest problem for Middlesbrough in its return to the Premier League, and that overshadows how well the Northeast club has defended its own goal.

Ben Gibson has been a huge part of that, and now he’ll earn the chance to represent his nation thanks to an injury to Chris Smalling. Gibson will join England ahead of Sunday’s home World Cup qualifier against Lithuania.

[ MORE: Podolski leads Germany past England ]

Gibson has far and away been Boro’s best player, leading the side in blocked shots and clearances. The blocked shots total is tied for ninth in the Premier League, 11 behind current leader and new England teammate Michael Keane.

Smalling’s undisclosed injury is a bigger problem for Manchester United, which had already lost center back depth on England duty when Phil Jones was hurt.