Fire captain dons headgear after concussion

Chicago Fire midfielder Logan Pause will have some odd-looking

headgear when he returns to Major League Soccer play on Saturday at

Chivas USA.

After missing three games with a concussion, the Fire captain

now wears a fabric helmet with exterior padding he hopes will

prevent another injury and possible complications later in

life.

”I do want a life after soccer,” Pause said. ”And I want to

make sure something like this never happens again.”

Last year, repeated head trauma forced the retirement of New

England star Taylor Twellman. A serious concussion also forced out

D.C. United defender Bryan Namoff and Alecko Eskandarian, like

Twellman a former league MVP, stopped playing after a 2009

concussion.

MLS has created a nine-member concussion committee, chaired by

Dr. Ruben Echemendia, who worked on concussion issues with the

National Hockey League. The committee began work in September

2010.

”I think what we’re seeing is a culture change in soccer as

well as other sports that begins to recognize this is an injury

that needs to be treated seriously,” Echemendia said. ”In the

past – 10 years ago – we used to laugh at this injury or joke about

players who’d be repetitive or stumble around.

”Now, players are recognizing that this is a serious injury and

to be able to identify it early, that chances are that they’d have

less time lost and have a longer career.”

The league for 2011 added neuropsychological testing for all

players to establish a baseline, so problems can more easily be

identified when symptoms arise, he said. There are also steps each

team must follow before a player, free of symptoms, can return to

the field.

Any player suspected of having a concussion in a game or

practice must be removed immediately and evaluated. Team physicians

are the ultimate authority.

”We wanted to define what the soccer concussion looks like,”

Fire head athletic trainer Bo Leonard said. ”You’re contacting the

ball several thousand times in a season with your head … The

brain wasn’t meant to be hit a thousand times. While it may not be

that traumatic an episode (with) the repetitiveness of it, what are

the effects?”

Overall MLS figures on 2011 concussions were not available, but

a league official said Friday that injuries were on par with

previous seasons.

Pause was injured June 18 after heading a ball against New

England. He said he was a bit rattled, but unhurt and continued to

play.

”I took a ball off the front of my head,” Pause said. ”I

wasn’t really expecting it, bracing for it, so it kind of rattled

me. I was a little bit out of it, but still felt it wasn’t anything

too severe.”

After the game he experienced headaches and was later diagnosed

with a concussion, the Fire’s third of the season.