A group of American parents have filed a class action lawsuit against the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA) and other U.S. soccer organizations, claiming that they've failed to properly treat concussions. Instead of claiming damages, plaintiffs are asking for a change in league policies.
There is an epidemic of concussion injuries in soccer at all levels around the world, including in the United States, from youth to professionals, from elite players to children playing for the first time, women and men, girls and boys. FIFA presides over this epidemic, and is one of its primary causes. By this lawsuit, Plaintiffs seek to require FIFA to become part of the cure."
The plaintiffs accuse FIFA of failing to enact rules to mediate the number of concussions, despite years of recommendations from the medical community.
In addition, they are asking that the soccer organization makes it easier for teams to substitute players, so that if they're injured they can undergo testing immediately. Then, medical professionals, not referees, would decide whether or not a player should return to the field after a head injury.
The defendants in the California case include: FIFA, U.S. Soccer, U.S. Youth Soccer, California Youth Soccer, The American Youth Soccer Organization, and U.S. Club Soccer.
Steve Berman, the lawyer who is bringing the suit released a statement Wednesday.
The medical community called for change over a decade ago and despite simple, best-practice guidelines, which have been updated three times since the initial international conference on concussions, FIFA has failed to enact the policies and rules needed to protect soccer players... We believe it is imperative we force these organizations to put a stop to hazardous practices that put players at unnecessary risk.”
The lawsuit goes on to emphasize the risk of headers, a common soccer move when a player directs the ball with one's head, to youth soccer players, suggesting that the practice be banned outright for all players under the age of 14. Despite headers causing 30 percent of concussions in soccer players, Berman claims that an average youth soccer player sustains about 1,000 headers per year.
The issue of concussions in football has been highly publicized recently, as more players have come forward claiming severe brain injuries from playing the sport. Last month, a judge in Philadelphia gave preliminary approval to a deal that would give players suffering traumatic brain injuries claims to damages from the N.F.L.
The N.F.L, the N.H.L., and the N.C.A.A. (and now FIFA) are all currently involved in lawsuits regarding concussions, according to reporting from The New York Times.