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Head Injuries in Youth Soccer

This summer, a global epidemic came to the U.S. - soccer fever. Already growing interest exploded with this year's World Cup and extends to playing the game, not just watching. As soccer grows popular among players of all ages and the high school season nears (November to February), we mustn't forget safety. Head injuries are a significant concern, especially youth soccer concussions. When these injuries are a result of a negligent or even reckless decision by a governing body, coaching group, sponsor, or other entity, legal action may be appropriate. Our Panama City sports injury attorney can help secure money compensation for victims while prompting changes that can prevent future playing field tragedies.

Soccer & Head Injury RIsks

In January 2010, Pediatrics featured a report on injuries in youth soccer. Approximately 15.5 million people of all ages play soccer in the United States and it is one of the fastest growing sports among high school athletes. Unfortunately, soccer has a higher injury rate than many other contact sports. Distressingly, 80% of soccer injuries involve players under age 24 and 44% of injured participants are under age 15. Soccer's concussion rate is comparable to ice hockey and football. Although head injuries account for only 3% of all soccer injuries, the authors suggest there may be significant underreporting. Notably, most concussions result from collisions with other players, not from intentional "heading" of the ball.

As CBS Sports notes, the threat of soccer injuries, especially concussions, was also evident in this summer's World Cup. Conversations about responding to head injuries often centered on the story of Germany's Cristoph Kramer. Despite a blow to his head, Kramer continued to play in the final game against Argentina. He was eventually helped off the field. After the game, Kramer admitted that he could not remember the first half of the game.

Parents' Lawsuit Focuses on Policy Change

CBS recounts this story in an article about a lawsuit recently filed in federal court against FIFA, the United States Soccer Foundation, and other soccer organizations. The suit has been filed by a group of parents who, rather than seeking money, are demanding changes to youth soccer to promote safety. The parents want to see improvements in the way head injuries are diagnosed and changes to the guidelines governing returning to play after a concussion or other head injury. The plaintiffs also want FIFA to change the rules on substitutions to allow substitutions beyond the usual three per game limit if the substitution is for medical reasons.

Although head injuries affect players of all ages, the FIFA suit focuses on athletes under age 17 and the detrimental impact a concussion can have down the road. One spokesperson for the plaintiffs notes that the medical community has been calling for change for more than a decade. Another suggested that high school soccer players experience a disproportionate number of concussions compared to other sports. Two comments that sum up the claims: 1) "FIFA's and US Soccer's failure to act and protect these young players is no longer acceptable, given the epidemic of concussive injuries and the failure to implement important advances in medical treatments and protocols" and 2) "We believe it is imperative we force these organizations to put a stop to hazardous practices that put players at unnecessary risk."

Last week, USA Today reported a proposed FIFA policy change that would halt play for three minutes so a team doctor could evaluate a head injury. While there is no comment from the plaintiffs, Taylor Twellman, a top-ranked player who ended his professional career at age 30 following repeat head traumas, expressed disappointment. Suggesting the proposal fails to address the root of the problem, Twellman called for the use of a neutral doctor and opined that current practices endanger players' lives.

Helping Victims and Protecting Players

We support youth sports and believe people of all ages can benefit from exercise and the team experience. However, sporting organizations must protect players, especially children, from unnecessary risk. Head trauma, especially when it involves a still-maturing brain, can have lifelong consequences including ongoing medical bills, limitations on future earnings (ex. inability to work full-time due to attention deficits), and chronic pain.

If your child (or you) suffered a head injury during soccer or another sport and you suspect the organization, its rules/policies, or its personnel contributed to the injury, s/he may be entitled to compensation. Call our Northwest Florida sports injury law firm to discuss a potential claim. As is often true, a personal injury suit in this field can provide compensation and can also lead to positive changes that protect others from future harm.

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