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.
"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?"
Prominent locker room signs now warn players of symptoms and team trainers addressed the issue at their annual meeting earlier this year. New rules for 2011 include neuropsychological testing for all players to get a baseline for comparison in the event of head injuries.
Any player suspected of having a concussion in a game or practice must be removed immediately and evaluated. If a concussion is suspected, the player cannot return to play.
Team physicians are the ultimate authority to decide on a player's return. They are charged with supervising a progression beginning with light workouts through regular training drills before returning to games.
Players must be free of concussion symptoms before proceeding to the next step.
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.