In England, the Football Association and the Premier League have issued new guidelines about concussion. This has resulted in club Doctors making the final decision about whether a player with a head injury should return to the field, rather than the manager.
Meanwhile, in the US a class action is being brought against FIFA, the US Soccer Federation, US Youth Soccer Associations and several other football groups, calling for new safety rules and accusing football’s governing bodies of acting “carelessly and negligently” in failing to protect young players.
In particular the families are arguing that heading the ball by children is putting them at risk of concussion.
A study at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the US has found that frequent heading of approximately 1800 headers a year has an effect on memory.
The families are not seeking financial compensation but rather new rules designed to protect children, comprising of limiting the number of times a player under 17 can head the ball and if a player has sustained a head injury then allowing temporary substitutions in professional leagues.
This story echoes the issues surrounding the neurological condition of the late Jeff Astle in this country, as commented on in a previous blog.
It will be interesting to see how the American litigation progresses and who the Judge sides with.
The Brain Injury Association and Charity, Headway’s Chief Executive, Peter McCabe said that the American litigation was part of an attempt “to raise awareness of concussion in football and this has to be welcomed”. He also added “the focus should remain on helping people at grass roots level to better identify concussion and act appropriately when a player suffers a head injury…. more also needs to be done to incite a culture change in the game that will challenge the myth that you are being ‘brave and courageous’ by choosing to play on after sustaining a concussion…… grass roots players do not have the luxury of having Doctors on standby should something go wrong, so it is vital that we make people aware of the risks”.
The American litigation is paving the way to a growing trend in raising awareness of injury caused by playing football (and other sports) and it will be interesting to see how this develops over the next few years.
The potential of brain injury in football cannot be ignored any longer and it may well be that in the next decade we will see a great difference in procedures and rules to protect against such injury. Children and those playing at grass roots level must be as protected as those playing at the highest level.
We at hlw Keeble Hawson Solicitors are specialist Brain Injury Lawyers and understand the effects of brain injury on people from all walks of life, whether children or adults. If you or a member of your family has sustained brain injury or wishes to seek further advice in relation to an incident involving a brain injury, please do not hesitate to contact our specialist Brain Injury Solicitors, Mark Hollinghurst on 01302 380223 or Aisha Ahmed on 01302 308694.