Armed with stats that show nearly 50,000 high school soccer players suffered concussions in 2010 alone, a group of soccer parents and players filed a federal lawsuit in San Francisco to get soccer’s governing bodies to impose new safety rules to protect players from head injuries.
The soccer concussion lawsuit, filed against the Fèdèration Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) along with other U.S.-based soccer associations for allegedly failing to adopt effective policies to evaluate and manage concussions, seeks, among other things, to eliminate the heading of the ball for players under the age of 14.
Lawyers representing the parents and players are asking a judge to grant the lawsuit class action status on behalf of the many thousands of current and former soccer players who played for teams governed by FIFA and the U.S.-based soccer organizations named in the suit.
“Soccer… is unique in its relationship to concussions because part of the game involves heading the ball,” the lawsuit says. “‘Headers’ can be a violent striking of the ball, sometimes with such violent impact that spectators wince and the sound of the impact carries through the stands.”
The lawsuit says about 30-percent of all concussions are related to heading.
(Read the lawsuit against FIFA)
“FIFA and each defendant acted carelessly and negligently in their positions as the regulator bodies for soccer and soccer players,” says the 138-page complaint. “FIFA and U.S. Soccer… had the power to direct and influence how the rest of the defendants treat concussion management issues.”
Well before the filing of this suit, Brandi Chastain, a star of the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup, went public on this issue in an effort to raise concerns about concussion risks in youth soccer.
Earlier this summer, Scientific American ran the story “Does Heading a Soccer Ball Cause Brain Damage” in which the magazine interviewed Robert Cantu, professor of neurosurgery at the Boston University School of Medicine and co-founder of the Sports Legacy Institute.
“Our findings and the findings of other researchers show that heading a soccer ball can contribute to neurodegenerative problems, such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy,” Cantu told the magazine in June. “Researchers who’ve followed soccer players have seen a close relationship between the amount of heading that a player does and brain abnormalities.”
The federal lawsuit seeks changes to the rules, court injunction to ban heading of soccer balls, the establishment of a medical monitoring program and recoupment of attorneys fees and other monies.