Hagens Berman Announces Settlement Agreement Bringing Sweeping Safety Measures to Millions of US Youth Soccer Players
SEATTLE – 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.
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 December 2015.
“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 Steve 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.
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About Hagens Berman
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP is a consumer-rights class-action law firm with offices in 10 cities. The firm has been named to the National Law Journal’s Plaintiffs’ Hot List eight times. More about the law firm and its successes can be found at www.hbsslaw.com. Follow the firm for updates and news at @ClassActionLaw.