Unofficial Update on #TheFIFA5 Lawsuit

For six months, I have been anxiously waiting to see how FIFA, US Soccer, US Club Soccer USCS, American Youth Soccer Organization AYSO, California Youth Soccer Association, Inc, would respond to the class action lawsuit filed against them on August 27, 2014,  This lawsuit pit three mothers and two female college students vs FIFA, soccer’s worldwide governing body—the Fèdèration Internationale de Football Association, soccer’s worldwide governing body and affiliated soccer organizations in the United State.

This lawsuit demands no financial rewards but only that FIFA and the soccer other organizations mentioned, make the following changes to their program:

  1. Implement up-to-date guidelines for detection of head injuries
  2. Implement up-to-date RTP after a concussion
  3. Regulation of heading by players under 17 years old
  4. Eliminate heading under 14 years old age groups
  5. Implement a rule change to permit substitution of players for medical evaluation purposes. (Currently, FIFA rules generally allow only three substitutions per game with no clear provision for head injuries. If an athlete bleeds, even from a scrape, removal is required, but no similar rule exists for concussions. FIFA provides no guidance on substitutions in youth games in the U.S.)
  6. Implement medical monitoring for soccer players who received head injuries in the past

Filed on January 30, 2015, Motions to Dismiss Papers by FIFA and the others make it very clear who should be held liable in future concussion lawsuits. Take a guess? No, flip through 1 or 2 of these.

  • 150130 44 FIFA.MotionDismiss
  • 150130 48 CYSA.MotionDismiss
  • 150130 53 USSF.MotionDismiss
  • 150130 55 NACSC.MotionDismiss
  • 150130 56 AYSO.MotionDismiss

I had hoped this soccer lawsuit would force the hands of these international and national leaders in soccer to produce a unified concussion plan for youth players. Instead I was sadden to read the responsibly being pushed down squarely upon the shoulders of the volunteer coach – the one with “direct contact” with the children. 

In my non-legal opinion, the Motions to Dismiss papers, in nutshell, state that none of the international or national soccer organizations are responsible to change any rules around concussion issues because:

1. They “lack direct contact with the players.” THUS SHIFTING BLAME TO THE VOLUNTEER COACHES

2. They “have no duty to make the game safer or to ameliorate risks inherent in the sport; their only duty is to not increase such risks. “ STATUS QUO IS STATUS QUO

3. FIFA clearly states it “has no legal duty to Plaintiffs to prevent risks that are inherent in the sport, like those from heading a soccer ball.”  PARENTS – YOU KNEW THE RISKS FOR YOUR CHILDREN

4. US Soccer states, “Legislature in each of those states has specifically addressed the issue of concussion management for youth sports, and none has imposed such obligations on an organization like US Soccer. Rather, like the Consensus Statement, the focus of the various state concussion laws is on educating and assigning responsibility to those individuals who have direct contact with the players to prevent a child suspected of having suffered a concussion from returning to play without first obtaining clearance from the child’s medical provider.”

These papers a chilling read for I think this “not our responsibly” approach will do more to scare the volunteer coach away from working with kids than asking them to do 20 min online CDC training course. Sadly, this fear-based response will not help to make a sport I love any safer for our kids. There is no reason to fear concussion safety education unless you fear knowing CPR or the Heimlich Maneuver, too?

Just as parents and older teens take the safe boating course before they head out for a day on the water, all adults and older teens heading out to play land sports should take the 20 minute, FREE, online CDC Coaches Training for the sake of their own liability.

Don’t wait for FIFA to lead the way… Just take the CDC course and go coach youth soccer!!

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