By Brooks Schuelke, ESQ.
The prevalence of traumatic brain injuries in players in contact sports is now well known. In fact, the initial discovery of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) was in the brains of deceased football players.
A new stu dy published by Boston University (BU) scientists revealed that 110 out of 111 post-mortem brains showed signs of CTE. Brain damage allegations have been trailing the National Football League (NFL) for over a decade. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy in football players has seen congressional hearings, been the cited reason for a class action lawsuit launched by players and the hopeful beneficiary of efforts to design new helmets and ban certain kinds of hits.
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease linked to repetitive head trauma, was first revealed in football players. Since the initial discovery of the disease and what it does to the brain scientists have discovered that linebackers, who engage in a series of smaller collisions during every play, do worse than other players who may take harder, but fewer hits during the average game. But football is not the only contact sport where repeated head trauma is common.
While soccer, with 265 million players globally, is not traditionally considered a contact sport, the way the game is played does result in concussions due to heading the ball, player-to-player head bunting contact, and falls. In recreational games, soccer players head the ball roughly six to 12 times a game, deflecting balls traveling up to 50 mph. While practicing, players head the ball up to 30 or more times repeatedly while performing drills.
In the past 10 years, DC United, a U.S. pro soccer team lost six players due to concussions. This season at least two of their players missed field time with head trauma. Furthermore, case studies show retired Brazilian and English players with a history of concussions while playing later showed signs of dementia with subsequent autopsies revealing CTE.
Certainly, all of the traumatic brain injury issues in soccer are beginning to become more visible thanks to lawsuits and the settlement of a potential class action lawsuit. Charlie Horton, a former DC United goalkeeper, stated in his lawsuit that a teammate deliberately elbowed him in the head resulting in concussion and the end of his career. In 2015 the U.S. Soccer Federation settled a potential class action lawsuit by limiting “heading” by youth players.