In an effort to reduce sports injuries to children the United States Soccer Federation “unveiled a series of safety initiatives aimed at addressing head injuries in the sport” earlier this month, according to a recent report in the New York Times.
The new regulations “will prohibit players 10 and younger from heading the ball and will reduce headers in practice for those from age 11 to 13,” the newspaper reports. More details of the policy are expected to be announced in the next month, but at a time of increased attention to concussions and other traumatic brain injuries throughout the sports world in general and among younger athletes particularly this announcement is a welcome development. As the newspaper notes, documents submitted as part of the case showed that “nearly 50,000 high school soccer players sustained concussions in 2010 – more players than in baseball, basketball, softball and wrestling combined.”
“The rules will be mandatory for US Soccer youth national teams and academies, including Major League Soccer youth club teams, but the rules will only be recommendations for other soccer associations and development programs that are not under US Soccer control,” the paper reports. Still, this action by the US’ important governing body for the sport is bound to have a ripple effect even in leagues where its rule-making does not directly apply.
The decision can also be seen as a victory for our legal system. The Times notes that the federation issued the new rules in part to “resolve a proposed class-action lawsuit filed against US Soccer and others last year.” At a time when, as I have written recently, the entire idea of class actions is under attack from big business this outcome is a reminder that these suits remain an important tool for ordinary Americans even when the issue, as in this case, does not reach a trial court.
As an Oregon lawyer who is very concerned about court access issues and whose practice focuses on injuries to children I’m very pleased by this outcome. It is proof that our system works and it will offer significant protections for young athletes at a time in life when they need them most.