U.S. SOCCER ANNOUNCES RESOLUTION OF YOUTH SOCCER CONCUSSION LAWSUIT
Big news in the soccer world – while the lawsuit was kept rather quiet, U.S. Soccer has now announced a resolution with rather dramatic implications. Sweeping safety regulations are coming to U.S. Youth Soccer following the settlement of a class-action lawsuit against six of the largest youth soccer organizations, eliminating heading for soccer’s youngest players and greatly diminishing risks of youth concussions and traumatic head injuries, according to Hagens Berman – Brandi Chastain had campaigned “No Headers For Anyone 14 and Under – Not Even For My Kids” for a while – now it is a reality.
A special letter was sent from Dan Flynn to the U.S. Soccer Membership yesterday stating:
We are pleased to inform you that a resolution has been reached in the concussion litigation filed in August of 2014 against U.S. Soccer, United States Youth Soccer Association, American Youth Soccer Organization, US Club Soccer and the California Youth Soccer Association.
As part of the resolution, both sides released a joint statement that provides additional information on the specific initiatives that will be implemented soon, including recommendations on modifying substitution rules in relation to concussions, eliminating heading for children 10 and under, and limiting heading in practice for children between the ages of 11 and 13.
The complete details of the initiatives, along with a more comprehensive player safety campaign U.S. Soccer had been working on long before the litigation was filed, will be announced by U.S. Soccer in the near future. Please refer to the Player Safety Campaign FAQs document which should help clarify questions regarding the new initiatives.
All parties named in the youth soccer concussion litigation – including the plantiffs and defendants: U.S. Soccer Federation, USYS, AYSO, US Club Soccer and California Youth Soccer Association – have reached a resolution of the lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed in August 2014.
The named Plaintiffs in the Mehr youth soccer concussion litigation and the U.S. Defendants, the United States Soccer Federation, United States Youth Soccer Association, American Youth Soccer Organization, US Club Soccer and the California Youth Soccer Association are pleased to announce a resolution of the lawsuit.
The United States Soccer Federation and the other youth member defendants, with input from counsel for the plaintiffs, have developed a sweeping youth soccer initiative designed to (a) improve concussion awareness and education among youth coaches, referees, parents and players; (b) implement more uniform concussion management and return-to-play protocols for youth players suspected of having suffered a concussion; (c) modify the substitution rules to insure such rules do not serve as an impediment to the evaluation of players who may have suffered a concussion during games; and (d) eliminate heading for children 10 and under and limit heading in practice for children between the ages of 11 and 13. The complete details of the initiative along with a more comprehensive player safety campaign will be announced by U.S. Soccer in the next 30 days.
Steve Berman, lead counsel for the plaintiffs said: “We filed this litigation in effort to focus the attention of U.S. Soccer and its youth member organizations on the issue of concussions in youth soccer. With the development of the youth concussion initiative by U.S. Soccer and its youth members, we feel we have accomplished our primary goal and, therefore, do not see any need to continue the pursuit of the litigation. We are pleased that we were able to play a role in improving the safety of the sport for soccer-playing children in this country.”
U.S. Soccer CEO/Secretary General Dan Flynn of the United States Soccer Federation representing the Federation and the other youth members said: “We are proud to be leaders in the areas of concussion education and management. The development of a player safety initiative was under way before the current lawsuit was filed. In constructing the concussion component, U.S. Soccer sought input from its medical science committee which includes experts in the field of concussion diagnosis and management, as well as from its technical advisors, and worked with its youth members to develop a true consensus-based program. We are pleased that the plaintiffs and their counsel recognize the steps we have taken and look forward to sharing the benefits of the youth concussion initiative with players, coaches, officials and parents.”
- Improve concussion awareness and education among youth coaches, referees, parents and players
- Instill uniform concussion management and return-to-play protocols for youth players
- Modify substitution rules to allow players who may have suffered a concussion during games to be evaluated without penalty
- Prohibit heading the ball for children 10 and under and limit the activity in practice only for ages 11 to 13.
- Improving education on concussion awareness for all youth coaches, referees, parents and players
In answer to the questioning everyone’s mind …
Are the new rules regarding substitutions, elimination of heading for U-10 and below, and limiting heading in practice for ages 11 to 13 going to be required changes?
U.S. Soccer says:
These changes are recommended for U.S. Soccer’s youth members. Although these are only recommendations, they are based on the advice of the U.S. Soccer medical committee, and therefore U.S. Soccer strongly urges that they be followed.
On the other hand, these are requirements for players that are part of U.S. Soccer’s Youth National Teams and the Development Academy. It should be noted that Youth National Teams will continue to be bound by the substitution rules of the events in which they participate.”
What do the new substitution rules specify within the Development Academy as it relates to head injuries?
If a player suffers a significant blow to the head and is removed from the game to be evaluated for a suspected concussion or head injury, that substitution will not count against a team’s total number of allowed substitutions in a Development Academy game.
If the player with the suspected head injury has received clearance from the HCP to return to the game, the player may re-enter at any stoppage of play. The evaluated player must replace the original substitute and will not count as a substitution.
The player that was temporarily substituted into the game for the player with the suspected head injury will be considered an available substitute and permitted to re-enter the game as a standard substitute per Development Academy rules.
The new rules will take effect for the Development Academy on Jan. 1, 2016.
Please visit this U.S. Soccer Web page for more important FAQs.
Concussions are big news all across the sports world and even Hollywood is getting into the act with a new movie “Concussion” from Columbia Pictures starring Will Smith coming out soon.
The Bottom Line:
The settlement will affect all levels from U-18 down and will eliminate heading for U.S. soccer players U-10 and younger and will limit heading for U-11 to U-13, preventing young players from heading for more than so many hours a week, starting January 2016.
“This is a tremendous victory that will affect millions of young soccer players across the country, and we’re proud to be able to bring such comprehensive safety measures to the game,” said Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman and lead attorney representing soccer players in the lawsuit. “We believe that this decision sends a strong message to coaches and lays down paramount regulations to finally bring safety management to soccer.”
Hagens Berman filed the class-action lawsuit, Mehr v. Fèdèration Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on behalf of several current and former soccer players against soccer’s worldwide governing body, FIFA, and affiliated soccer organizations in the United States including U.S. Youth Soccer and American Youth Soccer – leagues responsible for more than three million child and adolescent soccer players in the United States.
The settlement states that youth players who have sustained a concussion during practice or a game will need to follow certain return-to-play protocols before they are allowed to play again. Prior to the settlement, no rule limited headers in children’s soccer. According to the lawsuit, children are often taught to head the ball from the age of three. A dedicated youth player might sustain 1,000 headers per year, and a high school player more than 1,800 headers.
The settlement will also stipulate that youth soccer organizations provide information on concussions via their website and materials given to coaches. On an annual basis, all coaches licensed through the US Soccer system will be required to review the concussion video as well as concussion information/protocols which will be made part of course materials. Additionally, the settlement highlights the importance of on-staff medical personnel at youth tournaments.
The suit called on these soccer governing organizations to raise the bar and alleged they had failed to incorporate up-to-date guidelines into their concussion policies and failed to protect players from head injuries.
“Soccer has been part of my entire life,” Berman added. “I played in high school and college, and also coached. My daughter plays, and now I referee. Such important changes mean a brighter future for the sport and the millions of youth soccer players who love the game.”
Hagens Berman recently led a separate class action and settlement that if approved by the court will reform concussion policies across the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
“This settlement reflects the very core of Hagens Berman’s mission – to make change happen. We hope to see similar improvements come soon to the NCAA to bring safety measures to more athletes,” Berman said.The threat of a concussion is very real for all soccer players: U.S. forward Abby Wambach (L) fights for the ball with Japan’s Azusa Iwashimizu during the final of the women’s football competition of the London Olympic Games on Aug. 9, 2012 in London from SLATE