U.S. soccer parents file class-action lawsuit against FIFA in effort to change concussion protocols

August 27, 2014

Christoph Kramer of Germany lies on the pitch after a collision during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Final match between Germany and Argentina. (Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Parents of soccer players in the United States have filed a class-action lawsuit against FIFA and a handful of other soccer authorities over their concussion policies in U.S. District Court in California, the New York Times reports.

Besides FIFA, the lawsuit targets U.S. Soccer and the American Youth Soccer Organization, accusing all three organizations of being negligent when it comes to dealing with head injuries. Instead of money, the plaintiffs are seeking rule changes that, according to the New York Times, range from limiting the amount of headers allowed when children play to changing FIFA’s substitution policies.

FIFA’s questionable head-injury protocol became all-too-evident during the World Cup final, when Germany’s Christoph Kramer suffered a concussion after he collided hard with Argentina’s Ezequiel Garay. Instead of being instructed to leave the game to get a proper medical evaluation, Kramer was allowed back in the game, which he later told German newspaper Die Welt (via ESPN), “I can’t really remember much of.” As a spectator, it was horrifying to watch.


“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,” the filing says (via the New York Times). “FIFA presides over this epidemic, and is one of its primary causes.”

The lawsuit comes on the heels of a “concussion summit” that brought FIFA, the NFL and others together on Sunday and Monday to talk about the issue and how to remedy the problem.

“This will change the paradigm,” Rich Ellenbogen, chairman of the NFL’s head, neck and spine committee, said about the new cooperative effort (via ESPN).

It’s unclear, however, how motivated FIFA is to changing the paradigm, as it were.

Jiri Dvorak, chief medical officer and chairman of the medical and research center for FIFA, told USA Today when he left the summit on Monday:

“We are not alarmed. The situation is about the same over the past 16 years with a drop (in concussions) in 2006 when we introduced red card (match disqualification for an elbow to the head).”

The plaintiffs — who include Rachel Mehr, a former youth club soccer player; several parents on behalf of their children in youth soccer leagues; and Kira Akka-Seidel, a former club player at the University of California at Santa Cruz — are not satisfied with the status quo, however. Per the New York Times:

The suit seeks an injunction that would change the way soccer is played at all levels. Children under 17 would be limited in how many times they are allowed to head the ball. The suit also seeks to require professional and other advanced leagues — which are currently limited to three substitutions per game — to allow temporary substitutions while a player is examined for a head injury. Medical testing would also be available for soccer players who competed as long ago as 2002 and are now suffering from the effects of concussions.

FIFA has not commented on the lawsuit.

Marissa Payne writes for The Early Lead, a fast-breaking sports blog, where she focuses on what she calls the “cultural anthropological” side of sports, aka “mostly the fun stuff.” She is also an avid WWE fan.
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Cindy Boren · August 27, 2014