Martin Luther King once said that
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy”.
He could very well have been talking about Loris Karius after the Champions League final.
It is the biggest games that will test the measure of a man. How he copes under extreme pressure and adversity will show a lot about the strength of his character and whether he can perform at the highest level of the sport.
In the biggest game of his professional career, Karius came up lacking. The belated diagnosis of concussion may offer an explanation for the high profile errors, but the truth is that nobody really knows if it contributed to what happened on that fateful night in Kiev or not. Only Loris Karius will know the truth. Did the big occasion get to him, or did a blow to the head from Sergio Ramos affect his ability to perform on the highest stage?
After the disappointment and mental anguish of the final, Loris Karius went on holiday to the United States. It was reported by ESPN that Liverpool medical staff had expressed concern about a possible concussion, and it was on their recommendation that Karius was sent to Boston to visit a concussion specialist.
Head trauma specialist Dr Ross Zafonte of Massachusetts General Hospital examined the player, and the hospital released a statement concluding that Karius had sustained a concussion during the Champions League final that had taken place a week earlier.
The John W Henry Family Foundation on its website lists examples of non-profit organisations who had received support in the past. This list included Massachusetts General Hospital.
The belated concussion diagnosis from a hospital which had previously benefitted from financial donations from John W Henry has led some to doubt the veracity of the concussion diagnosis. On the flip side of this argument is the fact that the head trauma specialist Dr Zafonte who diagnosed Karius’ concussion is known as a leading authority on the treatment of NFL players who have suffered head trauma. One would think that if anyone would know about how to correctly diagnose a concussion, it would be them. It is also doubtful that such a high profile expert in the field would put his professional reputation on the line to help John W Henry and Liverpool Football Club.
Anfield Index Pro did a Fatigue Index Podcast in Sports Scientist Simon Brundish spoke to Chris Nowinski the CEO of the Concussion Legacy Foundation. Chris was a former WWE wrestler who fought concussions himself. He held a PhD in Behavioural Neuroscience and had also authored a book about discussion titled Head Games.
Chris stated that it wasn’t always obvious that someone had suffered a concussion. Crucially, he said that symptoms may not show themselves until a later date.
There will be cynics and opposition fans who do not believe that Karius suffered from a concussion and that this belated diagnosis by a hospital who have connections to John W Henry. There are other fans who do believe the message put out by the club that Karius was not to blame for the errors and that he was suffering from a concussion. There are a third set of people who just aren’t sure. It is possible that Karius was concussed, but given the belated diagnosis, it is possible that diagnosis might not be 100% accurate.
Ultimately, either way, Karius now needs to rebuild his career. Early signs are that the German goalkeeper still bears mental scars from the final; judging by his gifting of a goal against Tranmere Rovers. The Liverpool fans are on edge every time that he comes for a ball. While this is perhaps to be expected, it doesn’t help the player either.
Just as Liverpool Football Club thought it was in Karius best interest to get checked out for a concussion, they now need to assess the player and see what would be the right solution for him. Some time out of the spotlight or a loan away from the club may help the player rebuild his confidence. It is difficult to completely assess how well the player has recovered from the Champions League Final based on three friendlies, but early signs are not promising for the player. The club have to think of the mental health of the player. If the big occasion has gotten to Loris Karius, or even if he was concussed in the final, it is apparent now that it has affected him. If he has suffered a concussion, he may be worried about coming for a ball in case he gets hurt again. It would only be natural to feel that way.
Something that hasn’t really been discussed in any detail is whether or not Loris Karius could be suffering from Post Concussion Syndrome (PCS). The symptoms of PCS can continue for weeks, months or years after the trauma. Symptoms can manifest themselves in ways such as dizziness or blurred vision, for example, both bad traits for a goalkeeper to have. The club have a duty of care towards the player’s physical and mental health. As football fans, if any club should know that there are more important things in life than football, it is Liverpool Football Club and its fans.
The feeling I had after the Champions League final was like being punch hard in the stomach. However, I looked at the television pictures of Karius and he looked destroyed. Social media at the time was toxic. The very first thing I did was to send Karius a tweet of support. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to do that, and I am sure he probably never saw it. I wanted him to know he wasn’t alone and although it hurt like hell right now, I knew he hadn’t made those mistakes on purpose.
I hope the club has the player’s best interests at heart and does the right thing by him. What they do next is much more important than a supportive tweet to a player from a disappointed Liverpool fan.