US Soccer Group Changes Rules to Address Concussions, Youth

The initiative ended a lawsuit brought by parents and players seeking change.

The U.S. Soccer Federation has announced a new youth soccer initiative that addresses youth and concussions.

The US Soccer Federation's changes include ending heading for players 10 and younger; limiting heading for athletes ages 11 to 13; and having medical personnel present during games to help determine whether a player who might have suffered a concussion should return to the field.

The changes come as the federation said Monday that it had resolved a proposed class-action lawsuit brought by parents and young athletes last year against the organization and others seeking to change the rules of the sport, specifically regarding concussions.

In August 2014, parents and players filed the lawsuit in California against FIFA, the international governing body of soccer, as well as the U.S. Soccer Federation, the U.S. Youth Soccer Association and other U.S. soccer groups. The parents and athletes were not requesting monetary damages.

In February 2014, Patrick Grange, 29, was said to be the first soccer player to be diagnosed with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. After his death in 2012, his brain was found to have signs of the degenerative neurological disorder linked to repeated trauma to the brain, such as from concussions. He'd played soccer at the college level and his parents said in 2014 he’d enjoyed heading the ball.

In July, the lawsuit was dismissed against FIFA. On Monday, the settlement was announced along with the initiative as a joint effort by both sides in the lawsuit. The U.S. Soccer Federation maintained, however, that the rules had been in the works prior to the suit being filed.

The federation said that while the changes were recommendations only to some of its youth groups that don't report directly to the organization, they are required "for players that are part of U.S. Soccer's Youth National Teams and the Development Academy."

In a statement released with the changes, Steve Berman, a lawyer for the parents and youth players who brought the lawsuit, said his clients were "pleased" with the changes.

"We feel we have accomplished our primary goal and therefore do not see any need to continue the pursuit of the litigation," Berman said. "We are pleased that we were able to play a role in improving the safety of the sport."

The federation said further initiatives regarding concussions, including raising awareness and education, would be released later.