Today, soccer joined the fight for more concussion awareness in sports. In California, a group consisting of parents and players filed a lawsuit against FIFA. The lawsuit deals with the handling of concussions in regards to FIFA’s Laws of the Game. Even though FIFA is based in Switzerland, the lawsuit is going to take place in the United States, as most American soccer organizations base their rules on FIFA’s Laws of the Game. The lawsuit names a number of American leagues and organizations all the way from the youth level to professionals as plaintiffs.
The lawsuit does not seek financial damages, only that FIFA adjust the laws of the game in a way to reduce the impacts concussions have on players. Some of the rule changes the plaintiffs are seeking are temporary substitutions so that players can be properly evaluated. The neural exam needs 5-7 minutes to properly diagnose whether a concussion has occurred. Another rule change they are seeking is a limit on how many headers a person can have in a game starting at the youth level all the way to the U-17 level. This might actually be better for the game from a US perspective, as players will have to pass and move more and not just rely on the long ball. It would be a way of implementing tiki-taka football as a nation.
The World Cup helped shed some light on the issue. In the WC Semifinal, Javier Mascherano clashed heads, was visibly knocked out and continued to play. In the final, Christoph Kramer played for several minutes dazed and confused until eventually coming off the pitch.
FIFA will fight these rule changes just like they fight every other sign of progress. A huge non profit with a large bank balance, will be able to hold off the suit on some type of technicality. But maybe this will bring to FIFA’s attention the need for change and to listen to medical professionals, as concussions have become an epidemic in all high paced collision sports around the globe.
These types of collisions happen all the time at every level of soccer from small fry all the way up to the big boy professionals. It is a result of players putting their bodies and heads on the line to win the ball back for their teammates, or gain glory from a great headed goal. Unless the rules change in soccer that heading is not allowed, then this will continue to be a part of the game. There would be a fundamental change in the way soccer is played if this lawsuit is successful in all phases.