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Moshiko Mishaelof: “If your team-mate is concussed, take him off”

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Moshiko Mishaelof

Former Israeli player Moshiko Mishaelof is still suffering from a concussion he sustained in 2016.

It happened in 2016. The match was 15 to 20 minutes underway when I went to head a ball away and an attacker came flying in and hit me on the head. I fell down and I lost consciousness for a minute. I was treated for eight minutes on the field. The referee said I should be substituted. The players said it. The doctor as well.

But I said ‘no’. I argued with the referee and our physiotherapist. I didn’t want to be substituted. The coach saw that and didn’t take me off because I was playing a good game. He said: “After five minutes we’ll check if you are not okay, then I will substitute you.”

The game continued, we scored to make it 1-0. The goalkeeper asked me for the score and I didn’t know. He noticed I wasn’t okay and called the referee, who told the doctor to substitute me. But the coach refused.

At half time, my doctor and the other team’s doctor checked me, and they both said that I should be substituted. But again, the coach didn’t want to do it.

I played the whole game. Afterwards the doctor took me to the hospital to see if I had a concussion. The hospital doctor said I was crazy to have played that match: “Something terrible could have happened if you got a second hit.” However, after three or four days, I played another game.

When you are a professional player and the captain of the team, then the team needs you. So if you tell me to rest so that I can play after four days, then I will do that. That is how I reason. You don’t think too much about it. You only want to play.

One week later, I was watching TV and saw what happened to me during the match. I noticed how I fell, that I was dizzy after the hit. I realised that I had made a big mistake to play on.

Well, it wasn’t me who made the mistake. The club made the mistake. They should have listened to the doctor.

As a professional player, you only think about winning the game. At such a moment, we cannot take the right decision. You get trained that whenever you get hurt, you get up and continue playing. You don’t leave the game.

I don’t remember anything from that match. It is like a day that was deleted from my memory.

“Ever since that concussion, I have been experiencing a lot of headaches. I have difficulties concentrating”

— by Moshiko Mishaelof

Later I talked about it with the referee, who is a good friend of mine now. He told me that he asked for up to five times to get me substituted.

The coach, who’s a good friend too, still doesn’t understand: “I let you play and you were MVP of the game.” I told him he was stupid.

Ever since that concussion, I have been experiencing a lot of headaches. I have difficulties concentrating. I cannot read long articles because my eyes start to well up. I am trying to study but after 20 minutes, my head starts to spin and I have to rest.

I cannot go on carrousels or rollercoasters with my kids. If I do, I feel bad for two weeks. When my son asks me, I will do it, because I am his dad. But afterwards I feel very dizzy, and I cannot go another time. I feel very bad about it. My kid wants to have fun and I feel that I am disappointing him. But that’s my life now: I try my best to find a solution to give my boy and girl what they want.

Earlier this year, our union launched a campaign to raise awareness among players and the general public. We created a video in which a goalkeeper and I talk about our experiences, a doctor summarises the symptoms, and we tell players how to react. Our next video will involve more women’s and men’s players, as well as the national teams together. We will create it with the Israeli FA.

The current video is on our social media, especially on Instagram because that is where the players are. We also have shorter videos with players saying that it is important to be careful with our head, because once a brain is damaged, you cannot fix it like you can do with other injuries. We will promote this campaign for an entire year.

In 2018, after what happened to me and other players, regulations in Israeli football were changed. Now, it is a doctor’s decision to take off a player who is concussed. Nevertheless, I know that there are still clubs where managers put doctors under a lot of pressure to let players play.

That’s why we are asking players to look after each other. My team-mates know me better than anyone else, including the coach or doctor. They see me every day. They play with me, eat with me, talk with me. They notice when something is wrong.

And if they notice that I am not okay, then take that decision for me: take me off!