The Class Action Litigation That Changed Youth Soccer
It was only a few short years ago that kids under the age of 10 were still “heading the ball” in soccer. This maneuver that is so impressive on the professional soccer field, players’ foreheads tossing the ball far across the field, is now known to be a high risk for concussion. It was active parents and others who filed a lawsuit several years ago in federal court that made the difference. Their class action litigation is a really good example of how the legal system can be used for the good of all.
The lawsuit targeted the major soccer organizations claiming that the number of soccer concussions was far more than all other sports combined. The suit was filed against the entities that are responsible for setting standards and making regulations. The direct result of this lawsuit was a major change in the way soccer is played for younger children. The outcome of these guidelines are rules that should always be followed now by all coaches, schools and kids in Georgia and around the country. No child at the age of 10 or younger is allowed to head the ball ever. Not in practice and not on the field. Kids who are ages 11 to 13 are not allowed to head the ball in games, but only in practice.
This lawsuit also made the public aware of the fact that not only are there serious risks and issues for professional football players with concussion, but kids and adults must be aware of the risks associated with soccer. Although, in fact falls are the most common cause of concussive head trauma, sports neurologists say that until recently, heading the ball in soccer was overlooked as a major risk for concussion. Other overlooked causes of concussion include the collisions we see on the soccer field. What is most important in all of these injuries is to pay attention to the symptoms of brain injury and to go to the ER or a doctor if they persist. These include: headache, dizziness, fatigue, irritability, anxiety and difficulty concentrating and remembering things.
Paying Attention to Concussion Symptoms in Soccer and Other Sports
Studies have shown that adult players who head the ball regularly can have problems with attention and reaction times. As one doctor has written, what seem to be less obvious or “minor” changes in brain function, or what is technically called a “subconcussive” event, can ultimately make changes in the microstructural alterations that can have a long term impact on the way the brain functions. The best way for adult players to avoid these potential problems is training and eduction.
Other sports that can be overlooked for the potential of head injuries are bicycling and water sports. Whether falling off a cycle on a mountain bike ride or being thrown off by a car door opening as you ride by in a bike lane, there are often limb injuries that are attended to first. The fact is, the trauma that can result from a fall off a bike can be overlooked because of other injuries that are more obvious. The same is true for water sports. Things like diving, water polo (which can be very physical and rough) and other water activities can result in concussion or even whiplash.