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Aug 27, 2014

Lawsuit targets FIFA concussion rules

ESPN FC's Taylor Twellman responds to the lawsuit filed by parents in California against FIFA regarding their treatment of concussions.

A group of parents filed a class action lawsuit in California on Wednesday that would limit how many times children under 17 can head the ball and permit temporary substitutions in pro leagues while a player is checked for a head injury, according to a report.

The suit, filed against FIFA in U.S. District Court in California, names U.S. Soccer, American Youth Soccer Organization and other U.S. youth organisations, charging negligence regarding head injuries, according to a New York Times report.

"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, which seeks no financial damage, reads. "FIFA presides over this epidemic, and is one of its primary causes."

Participants from FIFA and other sports organisations met on Sunday and Monday at league headquarters to participate in a "think tank," funded by an educational grant from the NFL in New York.

Dozens of scientific and medical personnel from football, rugby and equestrian circles participated to look into better ways to identify, manage and treat concussions.

Plaintiffs in Wednesday's class action suit 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 player for the University of California, Santa Cruz, according to The New York Times report.

The plaintiffs' lawyer, Steve Berman, who also represents players in a concussion suit against the NCAA, told The New York Times that the organisation is vulnerable to an American suit because many American leagues are affiliated with FIFA and its Laws of the Game are cited by nearly every soccer organisation.

"If FIFA made the Laws of the Game different, they would be different at every level," he said.

World Cup organisers repeatedly failed to follow their own concussion protocol and then did not take advantage of the international interest in the tournament to teach fans and young players about the dangers of head injuries, concussion expert Chris Nowinski said after the World Cup. 

Several times in the month-long tournament, players sustained obvious concussions but continued to play -- a practice doctors agree can put them at risk of severe brain damage.

In the final, Germany midfielder Christoph Kramer played on after colliding with Argentina defender Ezequiel Garay. Kramer later had to be helped off the field and said he couldn't remember much from the collision -- signature symptoms of a concussion.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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