FIFA, US Soccer named in class-action concussion lawsuit

By Evan Hilbert | CBSSports.com

christoph kramer
Germany's Christoph Kramer admitted to having no memory of the final's first half. (Getty Images)

A lawsuit originating in California is asking several major soccer organizations -- including FIFA and the United States Soccer Federation -- to enact better policies in managing and evaluating concussions.

Essentially, the lawsuit seeks proactive changes rather than money. Specifically, the plaintiffs ask that these organizations improve their diagnosing of head injuries, as well as alter their guidelines in determining how soon a player can return to the field after suffering a concussion. Further, they seek a change in FIFA's substitution policy, which only allows three per game, to allow substitutions needed for medical evaluations.

The concussion issue in soccer was under a microscope at this summer's World Cup, as many called into question the ways in which head injuries were handled. Notably the situation involving Germany's Christoph Kramer, who took a blow to the head but continued playing in the final against Argentina. He was later helped off the field and admitted after the game that he had no memory of the first half.

"The medical community called for change over a decade ago and despite simple, best-practice guidelines, which have been updated three times since the initial international conference on concussions, FIFA has failed to enact the policies and rules needed to protect soccer players," Steve Berman, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told Forbes. "We believe it is imperative we force these organizations to put a stop to hazardous practices that put players at unnecessary risk."

The crux of the suit focuses on young players, and how rule changes -- including heading regulations on players under 17-years-old -- could prevent the damaging effects of concussions down the road.

"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," Derek Howard, another attorney for the plaintiffs, told the magazine. "High school soccer players suffer an overwhelmingly disproportionate number of concussions compared to other youth sports."

None of the named organizations have yet responded to the suit.

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