A group of parents and former soccer players filed a class-action lawsuit Wednesday against FIFA and other youth soccer organizations over their alleged mishandling of concussions and head trauma.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in California, names U.S. Soccer, U.S. Youth Soccer, the American Youth Soccer Organization, U.S. Club Soccer, and the California Youth Soccer Association as defendants. It alleges that each organization “has failed to adopt rules that specially address the issues of brain injuries and/or the risk of brain injury caused by repetitive heading by players under the age of 17.”
The plaintiffs note that youths are more susceptible to head injuries due to not being as physiologically developed as adults. According to the suit, 13-year-old soccer players could be heading the ball upwards of 1,000 times per year, while high school players could “easily exceed 1,800 headers per year.”
“If defendants truly intended to protect youth players, the Laws of the Game would prohibit headers or limit the number of headers youth participants could take,” the suit reads.
The plaintiffs further allege that U.S. Youth Soccer and the American Youth Soccer Organization have failed to incorporate up-to-date guidelines into their respective concussion policies. U.S. Youth Soccer’s playing rules as of Sept. 1., 2013, “do not mention concussions, concussion protocols, or concussion-related playing rules,” the suit states, while the American Youth Soccer Organization had failed to adopt any consensus concussion guidelines before 2009.
Instead of seeking financial gain, the plaintiffs want an injunction requiring each organization named in the suit to implement return-to-play guidelines for concussed athletes, a systemwide implementation of guidelines “for the screening and detection of head injuries,” allowing temporary substitutions for players suspected of a concussion to undergo medical evaluation, and medical monitoring for current and former players believed to have suffered a concussion while playing soccer.
Michael Kaplen, a professor at the George Washington University Law School who specializes in issues involving traumatic brain injuries, expressed skepticism about the suit’s chances of success in an interview with
Ben Strauss of
A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.