Tarnished Twenty- The FindLaw Sports Law Blog

Soccer Concussion Lawsuit Tossed Out of Court

A California judge has dismissed a lawsuit alleging FIFA, the U.S. Soccer Federation, and other governing bodies failed to adequately reduce the risk of concussions and other head injuries.

According to U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton, the plaintiffs, seven soccer players, failed to demonstrate any existing or imminent injuries or any link to the organizations named in the lawsuit. While the claims against FIFA were dismissed with prejudice (meaning they can't be brought again), the judge allowed the plaintiffs to amend their claims against other governing bodies if they could provide additional evidence of injuries.

A Dangerous Game

Judge Hamilton noted that the plaintiffs would not be allowed to rewrite "the laws of the games" in court, and that injuries are a part of the game: "Plaintiffs have acknowledged that 'injuries' are a 'part of soccer ... Those who participate in a sporting activity that poses an inherent risk of injury generally assume the risk that they may be injured while doing so."

Indeed, the lawsuit alleged some 46,200 high school soccer players suffered concussions in the U.S. in 2010, a third of those coming from headed balls or attempts to head the ball. But only one of the plaintiffs in this case had suffered a concussion, and Judge Hamilton was confident that was a one-time injury from which the plaintiff had fully recovered.

A Hard-to-Win Lawsuit

Lawsuits based on school sports injuries can be notoriously difficult to win. Mostly because, as Judge Hamilton pointed out here, players have assumed the risk of playing sports, i.e., they are aware of the possibility of injury and choose to play anyway.

While thousands of former NFL players won a settlement from the league regarding concussions, their lawsuit was based on the NFL lying about the dangers of concussions. Therefore, the players argued, they were not adequately aware of the risks of playing football.

FIFA will probably be relieved to be free of the lawsuit, embroiled as they are in an unrelated and wide-sweeping corruption scandal.

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