Until Monday, it seemed like Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius would forever have to shoulder the burden of two errors that likely cost the club a Champions League title. But now, after a concussion assessment at Massachusetts General Hospital, there is early evidence that Karius may not have been completely at fault for his meltdown. Even the German newspaper Bild claimed: “the diagnosis won’t hand Liverpool the trophy, but it will restore the goalkeeper’s honor!”
After receiving an elbow to the head from Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos, Karius literally rolled the ball into the path of an opposing player, resulting in a slow-rolling goal that wouldn’t have been out of place in a pewee soccer game. Still, there was no talk of a head injury until Karius was examined by two doctors a week later, by which point the soccer community was at odds with the diagnosis. Dr. Warren K. Young, a primary care sports medicine physician at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, tells Inverse that when it comes to concussions, it’s always better to err on the side of caution.
Concussions are broadly defined as a head injury that causes the head and brain to quickly move back and forth, and in doing so cause the brain to bang against the skull, injuring its cells. It’s usually thought to be caused by a jolt to the head, but that’s not always the case; the fact remains that it’s not always obvious when a blow will result in a concussion. “Most people say that concussions usually come from a head injury,” Young says. “But they can also come from multiple smaller blows, or even a blow to the chest.”
The symptoms of a concussion — including difficulty thinking clearly, feeling slowed down, difficulty concentrating, and issues remembering long-term information — can be severe, and so an accurate and timely diagnosis is key. As early as 2014, UEFA reevaluated their concussion policy when they announced a new protocol allowing the referee to stop the game for up to three minutes if a concussion is suspected. But even that might not be enough. “The player should be fully evaluated,” Young says. “Best practices should include a full neurological exam, which can take 10 minutes to do complete.”
Despite the new UEFA policy, Karius continued to play the remainder of the match. The game wasn’t even stopped, and he wasn’t thoroughly examined until he was on vacation over one week later.
Karius’ concussion examination may have gone a long way to restoring his honor, but it still could be weeks before he’s fit to take the field. In the meantime, his remaining fans, wherever they are, may be feeling slightly vindicated.