U.S. Club Soccer CEO Kevin Payne has warned about the dangers of head injury in football, saying that concussion could prove a problem for everyone from children playing amateur games to elite players like Cristiano Ronaldo.
Speaking ahead of the world premiere of Alan Shearer's BBC documentary "Dementia, Football And Me", the chairman of the technical committee and board member for the U.S. Soccer Federation said that the issue is bigger than football itself as it concerns the future safety and health of players of all ages.
"It's not even really a football question," Payne told Goal . "This is really about the welfare of these young people and even older people. It doesn't matter whether you're a 10-year-old girl playing in the weekends or whether it's Cristiano Ronaldo. If a player suffers a head injury, they need to be protected."
"Shearer is the real cautionary tale. Here's one of the best players of his generation and he's saying 'I had no idea the danger I was putting myself in. I knew about the danger to my back, and my ankle and my knee, but I didn't know the danger that I might not be able to function as the same person as I have been.'
"I hope that it will get a lot of attention in the UK and Ireland and probably worldwide because of Shearer's standing. Unfortunately the FA aren't the most progressive. This would be a good area for them to not hamstring themselves with bureaucracy and internal protocol.
"FIFA also have to treat this with real seriousness. They need to demonstrate this with their actions. I certainly hope at the next World Cup, we'll see a different attitude towards these injuries than we did at the last World Cup, which was disgraceful."
Payne would like FIFA and the FA to follow the lead of U.S. Club Soccer, where they have implemented a program called Players Health, which is a complete database of players' injury and medical history to make the game more responsible for the health of everyone involved at every level from amateur to professional and from children to adults.
"U.S. Club Soccer as a governing body is taking this very seriously. A number of states are requiring an exchange of information that's documented with a signature between parents and the youth clubs about potential danger of head injury. There certainly is abundance of caution now when kids do incur any type of head injury. There's an attempt to treat this with the seriousness it deserves.
"We are a partnered with Player's Health, which creates a HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) compliant, digital store of a player's information which allows the parent and the club to communicate with the tool. Whether it's an ankle injury or a head injury, the parent or medical professional can assess when the player is able to return to play. That makes it a lot easier for the club to say 'until we have the clearance, you're not allowed to play'."
Alan Shearer: Dementia, Football And Me airs at 22.30 GMT on Sunday, November 12 on BBC One and the BBC Sport Website.