Class Action Seeks to Stop Soccer Heading Concussions in FIFA

Protect Kids from Contact Sports – Soccer Heading Concussions

By Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.


Call us if your child has been injured playing contact sports.

Never in my career as a brain injury lawyer, has the issue of concussion been so much in the news as this summer. June was dominated by the NFL concussion settlement, allegedly a $745 million settlement. July the World Cup and live television audiences around the world, seeing the most egregious examples of the good of the team being put over the safety of players, ever perceived. Then at the end of July, a $70 million class action settlement against the NCAA was announced.

Yesterday, perhaps the most ambitious legal action in favor of concussion prevention was attempted by a sweeping class action against FIFA, the world’s governing body for soccer. The action seeks to outlaw all heading below the age of 17 and imposition of substitution rules that would allow for concussion evaluations. The complaint attacks the very core of soccer. As such, I must applaud that effort.

I also must applaud the lawyers who framed it in for drafting almost a manifesto against the soccer heading. The complaint provides one of the more complete statements on the risks of concussion and the history of the development of concussion in sport. While it misses a few key elements, it is a terrific read and is capable of informing concerned parents and advocates of the scope of the problem, in one document.

Some highlights of the information contained include:

Soccer Heading Concussions more Dangerous for Children.

Heading is far more dangerous for children than for adults, for several reasons. The clearest of those reasons is the relatively large head size compared to the relatively poor neck strength. As most of us probably realize, the head develops faster than the rest of the body. Thus in early teen years, the head is disproportionately at risk to flop around on the head, because of its relative weight to the body and lack of strength in the neck.

Soccer Heading Concussions 13 times More Likely in Practice

I have been railing of late about Football concussions being more likely in practice than games. See This class action lays out the statistic evidence to claim that soccer heading concussions are 13 times more likely in practice than in games. The NFL has finally moved to put limits on hitting in practice, but according to these allegations, FIFA and soccer’s other governing bodies, have not done so.

Girls more at Risk for Soccer Heading Concussions

You learn quickly when you handle brain injury cases that women are more vulnerable than men. This class action alleges that they not only have worse results from concussions, but that they suffer 30% more of them. Again, poorer neck strength is the culprit here.

Soccer’s Rules far More Barbaric Archaic than even Football

It is hard to imagine football as the paragon of virtue on the hill in protecting athletes from concussion. Yet, FIFA is so far behind the NFL in acknowledging the risks factors for concussion that this complaint alleges wrong doing by FIFA because they haven’t even kept up with the weak example of the NFL. The NFL’s concussion history is so weak that they just agreed to pay $765 million to settle for their lateness in implementing clear agreed rules. As cited in the complaint, the NFL began initiating concussion protocols in 2007. Yet those protocols still called for a loss of consciousness for a player to be found to have been concussed. Not until 2009 did the NFL adopt concussion definitions that were on the same page as the generally accepted concussion definition promulgated by the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicines in 1993.  Click here for that definition.

The Missing Soccer Heading Concussions Plaintiffs

The disappointing part of this complaint is that despite its ambitions in itemizing this manifesto against FIFA’s concussion protections, the plaintiffs with real provable damages are missing. A reading of the complaint might leave a reader with the sense that permanent brain damage, death and CTE are all theoretical risk factors for soccer. None of the named plaintiffs are claiming current disability or death.

People die from playing soccer. Frankly, soccer’s substitution rules make it inevitable that second impact cases will arise. When you put someone back in the game that has suffered as severe of concussions as we witnessed in the World Cup, it is inevitable that one of those injured individuals will have a second concussion that day, and perhaps death as a result.

People also get permanent brain damage from playing soccer. The studies cited in the complaint make that clear.

This is a compelling action. The lawyers who drafted it are to be congratulated for their manifesto. Yet, lawsuits are about people who are actually harmed, not the potential that harm might exist. If you want children heading in soccer to stop, then it is imperative that some of those who have permanent injury as a result of those risks join this crusade.

If you know of such individuals, call us and we will add our expertise in brain injury that has spanned three decades, to make this a case that truly changes the risk factors in sport.

Protect kids from contact. #protectkidsfrom contact



Gordon Johnson

Attorney Gordon Johnson is one of the nations leading brain injury advocates. He is Past-Chair of the TBILG, a national group of more than 150 brain injury advocates. He has spoken at numerous brain injury seminars and is the author of some of the most read brain injury web pages on the internet.

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