Is Soccer the New Football?
Concussion or head injury lawsuits received a great deal of media coverage in the last several years. The National Football League recently settled a concussion lawsuit, and the National Hockey League has also been sued. Now, soccer joins the fray. The New York Times reports that a group of soccer parents and players recently filed a class-action lawsuit against FIFA, soccer’s governing body, and affiliated organizations such as the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO).
The class action lawsuit against FIFA, AYSO, and other defendants was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. The lawsuit alleges the defendants were negligent because they:
- Failed to educate players and their parents concerning symptoms of concussions;
- Failed to warn of the risk that concussions could result from repeated impacts to the head;
- Failed to disclose risk of long-term complications from repeated concussions and return to play;
- Failed to promulgate rules and regulations to adequately protect players; and
- Concealed and misrepresented pertinent facts related to concussions and the safety of returning to play.
Unlike in many of the previous concussion-related lawsuits, the plaintiffs here are not seeking money damages. Instead, they are asking for an injunction that would require the various organizations to change the rules of soccer in order to prevent, manage, and mitigate head injuries and concussions.
The new rules would limit how many times a player under the age of 17 could head the ball. In support of this rule, the lawsuit cites an academic study showing that youth who headed a soccer ball 885 times per year showed brain abnormalities, and youth who headed a soccer ball more than 1800 times per year showed memory impairment. The complaint alleges that at five headers per practice or game, some high school soccer players frequently exceed 1,800 headers per year.
The lawsuit also seeks to establish a medical monitoring program that would be available for soccer players coping with the effects of concussions
Concussions Can Result From Repeated Blows
As discussed above, a concussion or traumatic brain injury can result from repeated blows or impacts to the head, even if none of the blows alone would have caused significant injury. This is because the effects of minor injuries can accumulate over the long term, and those injuries can cause symptoms such as:
- Fatigue or tiredness;
- Memory loss;
- Blurry vision;
- Headaches; and
Similar to the allegations in the soccer lawsuit, a Maryland resident who suffers from a sports-related brain injury may file a lawsuit alleging negligence. If a coach, school, or sport association was aware of concussion-related dangers and failed to protect athletes, maintain equipment, or warn athletes, this could support a claim in negligence. In addition, football, hockey, or baseball helmet manufacturers could be liable for a defective helmet under products liability law.