#TheFIFA5 A Recap by Snedaker

Dustin.Fink Dustin Fink

Although the news of a concussion lawsuit is not really “new” anymore the fact that it was brought against FIFA was “earth-shattering” in terms of news.  Sure, the football leagues and even the NCAA have been targets, but for soccer to get the proverbial target painted on its back has really shook up the sporting world.  It was big enough news that it was in national sports casts and even was termed “breaking news” in corners of the world.

Perhaps the beginning of football season here in America has swept away most of its “front burner” power; it is mindful to take a look at what this law suit is all about.  Mind you, it is not your normal litigation.  Below is a wonderful recap of #TheFIFA5 suit being brought forth, submitted by Katherine Snedaker-Price (it appears on her blog pinkconcussions.com):

This summary is based on information posted on the Hagens Berman S Shapiro LLP website and is my unofficial review of the lawsuit I have hash tagged as #TheFIFA5. NOTE: I am not a lawyer, and am merely outlining the suit as I read it. I welcome comments and thoughts.

On August 27, 2014, a Class-Action Lawsuit Filed Against FIFA, U.S. Youth Soccer Over Concussions made headlines. This lawsuit pits three mothers and two female college students vs FIFA, soccer’s worldwide governing body—the Fèdèration Internationale de Football Association (FIFA)—and affiliated soccer organizations in the United States

  • US Soccer Federation
  • U.S. Youth Soccer + American Youth Soccer (over 3 US million child and adolescent soccer players)

Note: In 2013, FIFA reported $1.386 billion in revenue.  The 2014 World Cup brought FIFA $1.2 billion from U.S. broadcasters. This lawsuit states FIFA has failed to enact the policies and rules needed to protect soccer players. FIFA and the others mentioned…

  1. Failed to adopt effective policies to evaluate and manage concussions, at all levels of the game
  2. Lacked of effective policies poses a greater danger to women and children players, who may more vulnerable to traumatic and long-lasting brain injury
  3. Ignored medical community called for changes over a decade ago
  4. Ignored simple, best-practice guidelines, which have been updated three times since the initial international conference on concussions (FIFA even hosted)

FIFA has made progress… 

  1. With Concussion Marketing and policy materials, which tout a commitment to player safety
  2. By implemented policies to address other health threats (cardiac arrest and performance-enhancing drugs)
  3. Hosted 2012 concussion conference that updated concussion guidelines

This lawsuit demands FIFA and others mentioned…

  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

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What makes this suit unique is that there is no “monetary damage” being sought, rather changes within the governing bodies to bring them up to speed with what other leagues are doing.  I find this to be refreshing; make necessary changes.

As we all witnessed in the World Cup there were times when a player was overtly showing signs of concussion (either being knocked unconscious or stumbling after getting hammered by a player) and were merely ushered to the sideline and then let back on to play.  The two that stick out to me most where the Uruguay player being knocked out during play and let back on (although the team doctor was adamant that he not return).  The second being in the championship match where Christoph Kramer of Germany does not remember playing in the penultimate match.

Both of those examples are exactly why #TheFIFA5 suit exists.  Those cases don’t only happen at the highest level, they also happen at the lowest levels and seemingly nothing is being done about it.  Now, it would be extremely unfair of me to lump everyone into this category.  I know for a FACT that the high school association here in Illinois has directed officials for soccer to look for such incidents and make sure they do not happen on their field.  Then again, that organization also has protocols in place for such cases, that demand that medical personnel has to clear and in the event none is available they cannot return, period.

The problem is that FIFA, the governing body to which all soccer/futbol looks to does not practice what they preach.  Nor, are they demonstrative enough about such incidents.  Perhaps it can all be related to the tactical nature of the sport and the use of substitutions, a purist mentality if you will.  This is a common thread with all sports and the struggles with concussions: proactive or reactive.

I have even opined on the issue and presented a possible solution well before the World Cup, November of last year to be exact.

I fully understand the need for balance between “knee-jerk” responses and measured responses for changes in the way sports are played in the face of the concussion issue.  If you read here enough you know I am not for quick reactionary “band-aid” solutions.  But I am for well thought out proactive changes that happen faster than years.

#TheFIFA5 is a good eye-opener for soccer, and whether is amounts to anything more than media run it is good to know that people have an eye on that sport as well.  Concussion is not limited to football, or soccer, or hockey, or lacrosse; it has a place in every sport we play in an organized fashion or in our back yard.

To me it always boils down to this: the injury is not the massive issue – it will always occur – the issue that we must make strides in is the management of the injury.  Having high-profile players and games give examples of what not to do is the wrong message.

Get it right FIFA!