USA’s Krieger to wear protective headband after suffering concussion

Ali Krieger suffered a concussion during her match for the Washinton Spirit last month and will wear a protective headband designed to protect players from future head injuries.

SAN JOSE, Calif. — 

If a revolution to combat concussions is going to happen in sports, it’s the athletes that must leading the way. Ali Krieger knows it.

The U.S. women’s national team’s dynamic right back has returned to action this week after suffering a brain-rattling concussion three weeks ago in the Washington Spirit’s National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) season opener, but she comes equipped.

For the World Cup tune-up game this Sunday against the Republic of Ireland (live, FOX Sports 1, FOX Sports Go, 2:30 p.m. ET), Krieger, 30, is going to be wearing a headband from Unequal, a company that makes protective sports gear.

"They’re customizing this headband for me so no one else in the world has this except me, so I feel pretty good and special. I’m going to rock it the next few games and then we’ll see what happens after that,” Krieger said, showing off the halo after training Friday in San Jose.

Krieger will be the second high-profile athlete to make a TV appearance wearing unusual gear specifically designed to protect from head injuries. Major League Baseball pitcher Alex Torres appeared for the New York Mets last month wearing a padded cap. He had worn one last year when he played for the Padres, but in the media-centric capital of the world, Torres drew attention — and not all of it good — for his safety gear.

But Torres saw first-hand the dangers of his position after Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Alex Cobb was drilled in the head and missed two months after suffering a concussion. Like Torres, Krieger is willing to look not quite as fashionable for a good cause.

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"I’m just being safe. I’m going to be the cutest 30-year-old in a headband. I don’t want to go back to step one again. It’s not just about me. It’s about the team so I’m going to do my best to do anything I need to do to keep it that way,” she said, adding that she wants kids to know that they should not feel foolish wearing equipment that may draw wisecracks from other people.

"I’m throwing my pride to the wind,” she said.

Krieger is a tough customer. She suffered dangerous blood clots as a 21-year-old Penn State player that landed her in critical condition in the hospital for a week. A leg fracture in 2005 meant surgery and a metal plate being inserted. But this latest medical event has quickly pushed Krieger to the top of the list of world-class athletes whose careers are jeopardized by brain trauma from concussions.

"This is serious stuff. There’s no cure for it. You kind of have to wait it out. I think of it as a snow globe where all the little pieces have been shaken up and now they need to settle and that’s what has been happening and now everything’s settled, so I don’t want to shake it up again,” she said.

She has also become part of a much larger community of athletes who are dealing with the very real dangers of concussions. Former U.S. national team goalkeeper Briana Scurry went through three years of hell combating the symptoms of a concussion that in 2013 finally required experimental surgery — that thankfully worked.

"Three former MLS players have reached out to me, too: Bryan Namoff, Alecko Eskandarian and Taylor Twellman. They all had their careers cut short because of concussions. But I have a big tournament coming up. I’m going to do whatever I have to do be safe."