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Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

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Question Number: 32267

Law 3 - The Players 3/2/2018

RE: Under 16

Sarah of Miami Beach, Florida United States asks...

The other day my best friend who is the goalkeeper of her team had a game. From time to time her muscles shrink? I don't know if that's the term. The thing is that during the game she kept calling the referee and telling him that her muscle had shrank and that he needed to pause the game because she was injured. He purposely ignored her and a little forward into the game she was hurting so bad that they had to pull her out of the game.Before that her injured muscle had caused her to fall, therefore missing a ball. That was the only goal the other team scored against them (which seeing as they were 0-0 meant they were ahead) . The other team won and luckily my friend didn't damage anything important.

I wonder if there is any rule on soccer that allows a game to be played again if the referee purposely chose to ignore an injured player

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Sarah
I believe she was suffering from cramp. Cramp is not deemed to be a serious injury and it does go away with stretching and/ or with resting the muscle.
The Laws of the Game state that the referee should allows play to continue until the ball is out of play if a player is only slightly injured and to stop play if a player is seriously injured and ensures that the player is removed from the field of play. That is not possible with a goalkeeper so the game has to be held up until it is sorted or a substitution is made. Also cramp is not a serious injury at least most of the time with exceptions and it is handled by the team mainly through substitution.
In this situation on her first request did the referee speak to her? Why did she not go down injured on the ground when the ball was out of play which would have required the referee to deal with it. Once she complained of an injury or she was down on the ground the referee should have allowed an assessment to be made at the next stoppage. It then becomes a matter for the team to decide whether the player can continue or not. A repeat poses a problem for the team.
Cramp rarely goes away if it is an overused muscle/s and the team has to decide whether to substitute the player or not. Cramp will return fairly quickly if the same muscle continues to be used and the only real solution is rest. A cramping player has restricted mobility anyway so it needs to be dealt with by the team.
I would suspect that if the referee saw it as cramp then in his mind it was not a reason to halt the game constantly. If it was already dealt with once a repeat will not go down too well and there is an onus on the team to deal with this situation by recognizing that the player is cramping and cannot continue. The team in my opinion should have stepped in and made a substitution which can be requested at any stoppage in play. Too often I see team ignore the physical signals of players not being able to continue which at Underage should not happen. I would advise any referee at Undersge to deal with any injury complaint as it is better to err on the side of caution rather than continuing. Referees should always in Underage place the burden on the team officials rather than on himself as to what is the extent of an injury.
I once had an adult player lay down when a team was attacking shouting cramp. He realised that there was a numerical advantage and his ability to run was compromised so he wanted the game stopped. I allowed play to continue until the next stoppage and then it was dealt with. He had reached the limit of his physical endurance and cramping up muscles meant that he had to be substituted. The player abused the provision of an injury stoppage for tactical reasons which did not work.
As to the notion that the game can be replayed for what you describe that is not possible. There has been no misapplication of the Laws just a tactical mistake made by the team of not dealing correctly with the injury of cramp. Physical ability is part of the game and it is one of the reason why extra time is played. Those teams that can endure more physical endurance with the ability to run longer and faster can use that to their advantage. Cramp, tiredness, etc are all part of the game. Teams have to manage that through training and judicious use of substitutes.
If your friend has a problem with cramping I suggest she seeks medical opinion. Reasons for cramp can include dehydration, mineral deficiencies, restricted blood supply etc. A goalkeeper should usually not be cramping as they tend to run half the distance of outfield players. It certainly requires investigation by a medical practitioner.

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Answer provided by Referee Joe Manjone

If this was a high school game, the referee should have immediately stopped play and the clock, and have her leave the game and be replaced. High school rules consider that any injury might be serious and that the player should get medical attention to determine the extent of the injury. Often, players that are injured will indicate they are okay to stay in a game when it would be better for them to get medical attention. Also, most referees are not medical personnel so they should not be expected to make a decision on whether a player of high school age is seriously injured or not. Hopefully, your example was not a high school game. If it was, the referee made an error, but unfortunately there is no protest in high school games, so only a complaint about the official to the officials' assignor or the Florida State High School Athletic Association would be appropriate.

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