A number of parents and former youth football players joined forces and filed a class-action lawsuit on Wednesday against several football institutions, including FIFA, over the sport's current treatment of head injuries.
According to a report from The New York Times' Ben Strauss, the group seeks no financial damages, instead demanding several rule changes be made with regard to how the sport limits and handles head trauma.
They singled out FIFA in their statement:
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. FIFA presides over this epidemic, and is one of its primary causes.
The group wants to limit the number of times children under 17 can head the ball, allow temporary substitutions for players being examined for head trauma in professional leagues and have medical testing available for players from 2002 and beyond who are suffering the effects of concussions.
FIFA became the latest organisation to come under fire for its treatment of head trauma and potential concussions during the 2014 World Cup, when there were several instances where players were visibly shaken from knocks, only to return to the pitch.
While some fans argued the choice should come down to the players, the dangers of concussion and second-impact syndrome are well documented, and several other sports have adopted stricter guidelines for allowing players who might have a concussion to return to the field of play.
FIFA's guidelines are similar, but as we saw during the 2014 World Cup, team doctors and match officials were not inclined to enforce those rules. ESPN FC's Taylor Twellman is one of many advocating for change:
The organisation claims it isn't worried about the recent bad press it has been receiving on the subject, as chief medical officer Jiri Dvorak told the press on Monday, per USA Today's Gary Mihoces:
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). There is a controversy about overruling the decision of the team doctor. From FIFA's side, we will strengthen the position of the team doctor, as we did already in the past.
But team doctors are often reluctant to tell a star player he is unfit to return to the match, and the decision to continue playing usually comes down to the manager and player himself. Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl disagreed with Dvorak:
The lawsuit was filed in the United States, and since FIFA is based in Switzerland, many wonder exactly how a potential verdict in favour of the plaintiffs would impact the decisions of the world's leading football organisation.
U.S. Soccer and the American Youth Soccer Organisation were among the other organisations named in the suit.
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