FIFA Being Sued Again

27 Aug

30F31F67B28BE1BD4A65A9AF5DDAC_h416_w442_m2_q80_cNumEFRpxFirst mygypsyspirit brought you news of FIFA being sued for poor refereeing at the World Cup. Now I bring you news of another lawsuit tangentially related to the World Cup which hit FIFA today. This one is all about my recently discovered passion topic: head injuries and concussions in football. Ohhhh, someone named Sepp is not going to be a happy baby. Guess I wasn’t the only one who didn’t buy into his Presidential Message on this topic.

According to The New York Times, a group of soccer parents and players filed a class-action lawsuit this morning in United States District Court in California over FIFA’s handling of concussions. Also named in the suit is U.S. Soccer, American Youth Soccer Organization, and additional youth soccer organizations.

The plaintiffs are not asking for financial compensation; rather, they are asking these organizations to change their rules regarding the prevention, assessment, and treatment of head injuries and concussions at all levels of competition. From the filing,

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.

A few of the items included in the injunction request:

– limit the number of headers for players under the age of 17
– allow temporary substitutions at the professional / advanced league levels while a player is being examined for a possible head injury
– medical testing for retired and current players from 2002 onwards to trace the effects of concussions

I’m not sure how you can limit the headers unless someone is charged with counting for each player in every game. And I suspect not all headers have the same impact / velocity, which could factor into the potential severity of a concussion. How would you know which to count? A temporary substitution sounds great, but again with the logistics. I say make it an automatic substitution and err on the side of caution. Player, manager, and owner egos, be damned. As for the last point…yes please! Let’s learn from the NHL and NFL who have been engaged in concussion litigation for years because they were not proactive with these injuries.

What surprised me from the lawsuit was that it reports nearly 50,000 high school soccer players suffered concussions in 2010. Thoughts on this number, Katie Ann? My mind boggles thinking about all these young people trying to emulate their idols and possibly suffering a serious head injury.

In respect to FIFA numbers, FIFA’s Chief Medical Officer and neurology specialist Dr. Jiri Dvorak stated Monday approximately 1.61 concussions occur per 1,000 playing hours at FIFA events. One serious head injury that could have been prevented or minimized is one too many in my books regardless of the number of hours played.

Tug_o_war_final_ptgo-1024x262As with all things law-related, there are conflicting views on the validity of this lawsuit. Jurisdiction seems to be the main sticking point; FIFA is located in Switzerland and not the US where the suit was filed. According the plaintiff’s lawyer Steve Berman, the location makes no difference because many of the soccer leagues are affiliated with FIFA and nearly all soccer associations cite FIFA’s Laws of the Game. His argument is that if FIFA changed their Laws then they would be changed at every level of the sport.

Fair point. People look to the governing body for direction, and if those governing don’t want to take action in “telling” people what to do then the story goes so too will “the people” be passive in taking independent action. FIFA want to dodge responsibility but they seem to forget that they publish and promote the football rules. They are ultimately responsible, no matter how many degrees of separation in between them and a specific player incident.

On the other side of the argument, George Washington University law school professor Michael Kaplan who specializes in traumatic brain injury issues stated: “I don’t think the court is empowered to provide this injunction because none of the plaintiffs have alleged a specific injury. The case they are trying to make is about medical issues they might have in the future.” Fair point too.

This is all curious, especially coming on the heels of the discussions on head injuries held this weekend with representatives from various major sports leagues such as NHL, NFL, and FIFA. All plaintiffs have 60 days to respond to the suit before a judge determines if it can proceed or not.

Apparently FIFA had no comment this afternoon as they were not aware of the lawsuit. Always a day(s) late.


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