Entertainment & Sports Law

Class action aims to curb soccer concussions

A class action suit filed on Wednesday seeks to limit concussions among soccer players by changing the rules for the sport.

The suit, filed in federal court in San Francisco, names several soccer organizations as defendants, including FIFA, the sport’s international governing body, report the New York Times and Time.

“For many families soccer is seen as a terrific alternative to football,” the suit says. “Parents are often relieved when their children choose soccer. However, soccer ranks among the top sports in the number of concussions per game.”

The suit (PDF) seeks rule changes that would limit heading the ball for children under 17, and would allow additional substitutions in professional and advanced leagues so players could be examined for head injuries. The suit also seeks medical monitoring for those who played the sport as long ago as 2002.

Steve Berman, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, contends U.S. courts have jurisdiction over Zurich-based FIFA because many U.S. soccer leagues are affiliated with the group, and nearly all of the U.S. leagues use its rules of the game.

The New York Times interviewed sports law professors who saw problems with the suit. Gabe Feldman of Tulane Law School said there will be questions about standing, jurisdiction and venue, and whether “these are the right plaintiffs and the right defendants.”

Michael Kaplen of the George Washington University Law School said the plaintiffs are alleging they might have medical issues in the future, rather than current injuries. “I don’t think the court is empowered to provide this injunction because none of the plaintiffs have alleged a specific injury,” he said.

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