FIFA, U.S. Soccer and four youth associations have been sued in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California by a group seeking
the establishment of a medical monitoring program for players with concussions and head injuries and the implementation of "return to play" guidelines, a change in substitution rules and rules for
heading by players under the age of 17.
The five plaintiffs -- players or parents of players -- are listed in the class-action suit Mehr vs. FIFA filed by attorneys for the firm Hagens
Berman Sobol Shapiro. They allege that soccer organizations have failed to provide adequate concussion management.
The 140-page complaint alleges head injuries are at "epidemic" levels.
It cites a study by the Center for Injury Research and Policy in Columbus, Ohio, that there are more concussions in high school soccer than in high school baseball, basketball, softball and wrestling
combined. It also asserts that 30 percent of concussions occur from heading a ball or attempting to head a ball, and young players are particularly vulnerable to head injuries from heading.
The class for the purposes of the suit consist of all current and former players from 2002 to the present who played for teams governed by FIFA, U.S. Soccer, U.S. Youth Soccer, U.S. Club Soccer and
AYSO. The California Youth Soccer Association (Cal North) is also listed as a defendant.
The plaintiffs are not asking for monetary damages. They are, however, asking for the creation of
medical monitoring program -- paid for by a trust fund set up by the defendants -- for all those in the class who have played for (or will play for) teams governed by the defendants since 2002.
They are also seeking injunctive relief implementing:
-- "return to play" guidelines;
-- guidelines for screening and detecting head injuries;
-- changing of
substitution rules for medical evaluation purposes; and
-- regulations for heading by players under 17.
The plaintiffs also ask that all players be informed that they may need to be
monitored for concussions and that team physicians need to be given guidelines about concussion injuries and their risks.
The lead attorney is Jon
, based in Berkeley. He represents former NFL quarterback Craig Morton
in a concussion lawsuit against the NFL filed in the same Federal court as the
soccer concussion suit. He was at one point the lead attorney in the O'Bannon vs. NCAA lawsuit.
For the suit to go forward, the court will need to certify that there is a class action and
the plaintiffs will represent the class.
In addition to the establishment of the medical monitoring program and their injunctive relief, the plaintiffs seek legal fees and costs and other
relief as determined by the court.