Spanish goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo nearly broke his neck in a nasty on-field incident in Villarreal's clash with Espanyol on Sunday, but was still allowed to play the final 10 minutes of the game.
Not only did he concede an equalizing goal after his injury, but later complained of neck pains and dizziness, forcing an emergency trip to the hospital, where he was kept under observation.
Asenjo, 25, suffered the injury when he leapt to collect a cross but collided with his teammate in midair. The airborne goalie flipped backwards and landed so badly thatit's difficult just to watch the replay. The entire weight of his body fell on his neck, and that could've easily resulted in a life-threatening injury.
Both his teammates and the opposing players gestured toward the technical area in panic to send in the medical team. The atmosphere around the stadium suddenly went somber, and both the team's players as well as the fans seemed concerned about Asenjo's health.
In a surprising turn of events, the Villarreal medical team declared the injured goalie fit to play after a few minutes of treatment. Neither the referee nor Villarreal coach Marcelino García Toral – both of who saw the incident quite clearly – objected.
Asenjo took his place between the sticks and conceded a late equalizer to round off a miserable night. But his personal troubles weren't over yet. Later on, he experienced pain and was sent to the hospital, confirming that the original decision to let him play was wrong and irresponsible.
It's shocking to see that even in this day and age, when there is so much debate about making sports safer for athletes, these kinds of incidents take place.
Primera Division, the league that the game took place in, has seen a number of high profile fatalities in on-field incidents. Antonio Puerta and Daniel Jarque's names come to mind. In the light of these incidents, player safety should be a much bigger concern for the Liga Nacional de Fútbol Profesional – the league's governing body.
But considering how easily Asenjo was allowed to continue in the incident above, it doesn’t seem that sports authorities on the Iberian Peninsula care too much about their athletes' well-being.