- Associated Press - Friday, July 1, 2011

CHICAGO (AP) - Chicago Fire midfielder Logan Pause will have some odd-looking headgear when he returns to Major League Soccer play on Saturday at Chivas USA.

After missing three games with a concussion, the Fire captain now wears a fabric helmet with exterior padding he hopes will prevent another injury and possible complications later in life.

“I do want a life after soccer,” Pause said. “And I want to make sure something like this never happens again.”

Last year, repeated head trauma forced the retirement of New England star Taylor Twellman. A serious concussion also forced out D.C. United defender Bryan Namoff and Alecko Eskandarian, like Twellman a former league MVP, stopped playing after a 2009 concussion.

MLS has created a nine-member concussion committee, chaired by Dr. Ruben Echemendia, who worked on concussion issues with the National Hockey League. The committee began work in September 2010.

“I think what we’re seeing is a culture change in soccer as well as other sports that begins to recognize this is an injury that needs to be treated seriously,” Echemendia said. “In the past _ 10 years ago _ we used to laugh at this injury or joke about players who’d be repetitive or stumble around.

“Now, players are recognizing that this is a serious injury and to be able to identify it early, that chances are that they’d have less time lost and have a longer career.”

The league for 2011 added neuropsychological testing for all players to establish a baseline, so problems can more easily be identified when symptoms arise, he said. There are also steps each team must follow before a player, free of symptoms, can return to the field.

Any player suspected of having a concussion in a game or practice must be removed immediately and evaluated. Team physicians are the ultimate authority.

“We wanted to define what the soccer concussion looks like,” Fire head athletic trainer Bo Leonard said. “You’re contacting the ball several thousand times in a season with your head … The brain wasn’t meant to be hit a thousand times. While it may not be that traumatic an episode (with) the repetitiveness of it, what are the effects?”

Overall MLS figures on 2011 concussions were not available, but a league official said Friday that injuries were on par with previous seasons.

Pause was injured June 18 after heading a ball against New England. He said he was a bit rattled, but unhurt and continued to play.

“I took a ball off the front of my head,” Pause said. “I wasn’t really expecting it, bracing for it, so it kind of rattled me. I was a little bit out of it, but still felt it wasn’t anything too severe.”

After the game he experienced headaches and was later diagnosed with a concussion, the Fire’s third of the season.