By Ken Reed

A collection of United States-based parents, players, and former players has filed a class-action lawsuit against FIFA, U.S. Soccer, and the American Youth Soccer Organization, among others.

The plaintiffs are after rule changes in the sport not money.

The suit seeks an injunction that would limit how many times soccer players under 17 could head the ball and would allow professional and other high-level leagues to allow temporary substitutions while a player is examined for a head injury. Current rules limit substitutions to three a game in these elite leagues. The suit also seeks medical testing for soccer players who competed as far back as 2002 and are now dealing with the effects of concussions sustained while playing the game.

The suit targets FIFA, the sport’s international governing body, and its Laws of the Game, as a primary cause of today’s brain trauma issues.

“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,” according to the lawsuit filing. “FIFA presides over this epidemic and is one of its primary causes.”

The plaintiffs’ lead lawyer, Steve Berman, believes if FIFA took action to make the game safer all other soccer organizations would folllow.

“Every U.S. organization follows the Laws of the Game,” said Berman. “If FIFA made the Laws of the Game different, they would be different at every level.”

Girls soccer is second only to football for the number of concussions in American high school sports. Overall, almost 50,000 high school soccer players — boys and girls combined — sustained concussions in 2010 — more players than in baseball, basketball, softball and wrestling combined.

During this summer’s World Cup, there were several cases of players continuing to play with clear symptoms of concussion. Current FIFA rules didn’t allow for a medical substitution for these players so they could be examined for brain injuries. Continuing to play while concussed is extremely dangerous and can result in death from Second Impact Syndrome, which occurs from brain swelling after a second blow to the head before concussion symptoms clear.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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