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Lawsuit filed against FIFA over concussions

A class action lawsuit was filed yesterday by a group of soccer parents and players against FIFA, soccer's international governing body, over its handling of concussions. The lawsuit, filed in a federal district court in California, also names U.S. Soccer and the American Youth Soccer Organization, alleging that they and FIFA have not properly monitored or treated head injuries.

Interestingly, the Plaintiff's are not seeking financial damages for the alleged negligence. Instead, the Plaintiff's are asking for changes to the sport's rules, to include but not necessarily limited to, limiting headers for children and altering FIFA's substitution protocols.

According to the lawsuit, "[t]here is an epidemic of concussions in soccer at all levels around the world, including in the United States, from youth to professionals, from elite players to children playing for the first time, women and men, girls and boys." The suit continues, "FIFA presides over this epidemic and is one of its primary causes."

The lawsuit requests an injunction that would alter the way soccer is played. The suit seeks to require professional and advanced leagues to allow temporary substitutions while a player is examined for a head injury; requests that medical testing be made available for players who competed as long ago as 2002; and requests that children under 17 be limited in how many times they could head the ball.

One major issue in the case will be whether or not the lawsuit was filed in the proper jurisdiction. The Plaintiffs' law contends that FIFA is open to a suit in the United States because many American leagues are affiliated with FIFA even though FIFA is headquartered in Zurich, Switzerland.

According to the filing, nearly 50,000 high school soccer players sustained concussions in 2010-more than players in baseball, softball, basketball, and wrestling combined. This lawsuit is just one suit in a recent string of sports related lawsuits that seek redress of head injuries. The N.F.L., N.H.L, and the N.C.A.A. have all been named in concussion related litigation in the recent past.

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