James Sands and Anthony Rizzo prove US sports need to improve concussion care

-Concussions have been a major topic across the US sport landscape

-Recently, James Sands and Anthony Rizzo both had delays with their concussion diagnoses

-Sports leagues have to be better with concussion care

James Sands of NYCFC
James Sands of NYCFC / Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

When New York City FC player James Sands got hurt during the Atlas F.C. game, many thought he would not come back out and play.  It was clear he hurt his head, but surprisingly he returned and finished the game.

Then, in the lead-up to the Toronto FC match, Nick Cushing revealed that the Homegrown player had a concussion and would not be available to play against the Reds.  It was revealed that he passed all concussion protocol tests and was allowed to remain in the Atlas fixture.

Yet, it was determined afterward that he had a concussion.  Thankfully, it appeared it was not a serious one, for Sands played for NYCFC against the New York Red Bulls.  However, if he passed concussion protocols originally, and then was proven to have a concussion, how can it be trusted that he was okay?

Meanwhile, Sands has not been the only Yankee Stadium player in the news. In the past week, it was revealed that New York Yankees’ first baseman, Anthony Rizzo, has post-concussion syndrome. In other words, the player has been playing with a likely concussion. According to the Yankees, it is believed to be from a clash Rizzo had during the San Diego Padres series… on May 28. Yes, that is correct.

James Sands and Anthony Rizzo illuminate the need for improved concussion care

Since that day, the baseball star started to decline in his production at the plate.  Over two months went by, and he could not hit as he used to.  Until the clash, he was hitting .304.  From that point on, he has been hitting .172.  He went from a .304 batting average to a .244 average.  It was determined he was the worst player in baseball. 

Finally, Rizzo felt foggy and eventually brought it up to the Yankees.  It took a few days, but he officially got the proper testing, and it was determined he has cognitive impairment.  This explains why he has played terribly, but like Sands, illuminates a major problem in US sports.  Despite all of the research available, the use of both in-house doctors and outside doctors, and the outside pressure from former players, doctors, the media, and fans, professional sports teams do not handle concussions well enough.

Before continuing, it has gotten better.  There are reasons why there are concussion protocols in every professional league, especially in the NFL.  MLS and MLB are no different. 

However, the fact Sands remained on the pitch against Atlas, and the fact it took two months for Rizzo to be diagnosed with a likely concussion, reveal the job is far from done.  These are two New York players who were failed by their clubs and put at risk. Regarding Rizzo, for all intents and purposes, saying he had a likely concussion is absurd. Based on symptoms and current tests, he had, and might still have, a concussion.  

Sands might have passed concussion protocols during the game, but if he was later confirmed to have a concussion, then the protocols need to be adjusted.  This is not just for NYCFC but in MLS and all other leagues.  Perhaps the doctor(s) that gave the all-clear was wrong, and another would have disagreed with the assessment.

Rizzo may have had symptoms right away after that clash.  It was said he suffered a neck injury and would be day to day.  He also passed concussion protocols at the time. However, if he began to play poorly after the clash, and if it was known he had an injury near the head, then would it not be smart to have the player checked out? 

Admittedly, players can hold back information from their teams as well.  As fans, it is unknown how much Sands and Rizzo withheld from doctors, especially when their injuries occurred. Although, in Rizzo's case, he told The Athletic that he thinks the Yankees handled everything properly, for there were no signs of a concussion. Or, at the very least, any signs were attributed to the grind of the season.

Nonetheless, they are not the only players misdiagnosed or delayed in confirming a concussion.  The two players illuminate that the professional teams in the US have a long way to go.  This not only brings a bad light to how New York City FC and the Yankees handled their stars but in MLS and MLB.  Hopefully, this will bring about change, for a delayed concussion diagnosis should not happen.