Head injuries have always been common in football, but only recently have the risks involved for players’ health become cause for grave concern. Per a recent report from Bild (via DW), the Bundesliga and the 2.Liga in the German footballing federation will require mandatory brain screenings once per year.
The annual screenings will be implemented next season in connection with the players’ annual checkups. Andreas Nagel, director of the DFL, explained that the aim behind the initiative is take a more serious and professional approach to dealing with head injuries:
Acute head injuries are a danger for athletes, and clubs, and doctors are regularly told about it. By introducing mandatory baseline screening, we are making the handling of head injuries in football more professional.
Not only will this change take place in the top two divisions in Germany, but doctors have also recommended that these annual scans take place at all youth academies. The DFB has even gone so far as to recommend that players below the age of 13 not practice stopping the ball with their heads to avoid potential head injuries. Instead, they recommend practicing heading with softer items, such as balloons.
DW cited Borussia Monchengladbach midfielder Christoph Kramer, who suffered a serious head injury playing for Germany in the 2014 World Cup final against Argentina in Brazil. He was thrust into the starting lineup by Joachim Low after Sami Khedira had sustained an injury during warm-ups. After colliding with an Argentinian player, Kramer was disoriented, and did not even know the score at halftime. The referee alerted team captain Philipp Lahm that Kramer had asked him whether the match was, in fact, the World Cup final. To this day, Kramer has little recollection of his involvement in that match. His head injury is a harsh reminder of how much risk footballers run during any given match or training session.
Since the 2014 World Cup final, strides have been made in the right direction in prevention and protection against head injuries, but one might feel that these annual screenings should have been implemented much earlier with the resources professional clubs in Germany have available to them.
Editorial note: The DFB did not state when it would implement mandatory brain scans for DFB management and/or coaching staff.