A group of current and former soccer players has filed a lawsuit against FIFA, claiming football’s world governing body isn’t doing enough to manage the issue of concussion in the game.
The action, which is also targeted at U.S. Youth Soccer, American Youth Soccer and others, alleges these groups have “failed to adopt effective policies to evaluate and manage concussions.”
It also claims women and children are put in danger by a lack of adequate rules to manage concussion as they are “more vulnerable to traumatic and long-lasting brain injury.”
The lawsuit seeks no financial damages and instead is insisting on rule changes it has been suggesting for over a decade.
The plaintiffs, which include Rachel Mehr — a former youth club soccer player — and several parents on behalf of their children in youth soccer leagues, are led by attorney Steve Berman.
“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,” he said in a statement sent to CNN by his firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP.
“We believe it is imperative we force these organizations to put a stop to hazardous practices that put players at unnecessary risk.
“The negligence is remarkable, given that FIFA actively promotes its activities to children. Yet no rule limits headers in children’s soccer, and children are often taught to head the ball from the age of three.
“We estimate that a dedicated youth player might sustain 1,000 headers per year, and a high school player more than 1,800 headers.”
The lawsuit, filed in California, claims FIFA guidelines appear to suggest it is referees and players who diagnose brain injuries and not medical professionals.
It wants provision made for temporary substitutions to be allowed when a player is being examined for a brain injury, above the permitted three per match, and a limit on how many times players under 17 can head the ball.
Concussion has become a hot topic in major sports in the United States with the National Football League, the National Hockey League and the National Collegiate Athletic Association all involved in litigation.
In 2013, the NFL struck a deal worth $765 million to fund medical exams, concussion-related compensation, medical research for retired NFL players and their families, as well as litigation expenses.
Currently, any player who is knocked out or concussed during an NFL match is removed from the game, but no such rules exist in soccer.
According to FIFA’s most recent newsletter, there were five incidents of concussion at the recent World Cup in Brazil, including one in the final between Germany and Argentina.