MLS, US Soccer participate in Healthy Kids and Safe Sports Concussion Summit at White House

NEW YORK – Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber and U.S. Soccer CEO and Secretary General Dan Flynn joined President Obama and 200 sports officials, medical experts, parent activists and young athletes at the White House on Thursday to participate in the Healthy Kids & Safe Sports Concussion Summit.

The meeting was targeted at finding new ways to identify, treat and prevent serious head injuries, particularly in youth sports.

As part of today’s summit, MLS and U.S. Soccer announced that the two organizations will partner to organize a first-of-its-kind Soccer Medical Summit in the fall of 2014 that will focus on medical issues related to youth, amateur and professional soccer. This three-day summit will provide an opportunity for the soccer community to review the latest research, identify best practices and chart a course to further understand soccer-related medical issues and develop additional strategies for enhancing safety and reducing injuries. One day of the summit will be devoted specifically to concussions in soccer.

“Major League Soccer is committed to supporting the efforts of President Obama and the administration to ensure the health and safety of athletes of all ages,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “The new Soccer Medical Summit provides an opportunity to bring the leadership of the entire North American soccer community together with leading experts to address this important issue.”

“U.S. Soccer fully supports President Obama’s administration and the efforts they have taken to address the health and safety of athletes, especially as it pertains to youth athletes,” said Flynn. “It’s important that we take every measure to make sure athletes, officials and parents are well-informed. The Soccer Medical Summit is a great opportunity to bring everyone together and focus on athletes’ safety, which should always be at the forefront as soccer continues to grow in this country.”

The Soccer Medical Summit will bring together top medical professionals and researchers in sports medicine, leadership of youth and amateur soccer organizations, representatives from the professional leagues and clubs, current and former players, and U.S. Soccer and MLS league and club medical staffs.

Dr. Ruben Echemendia, Major League Soccer’s Neuropsychologist Consultant, and U.S. Soccer’s Chief Medical Officer – a new position established to interface with the medical community and experts in the field of concussion management and prevention – will collectively manage a working group that will organize the summit’s program.

The summit will include presentations by leading experts on the current state of research and areas for future research, education sessions on best practices for the management of soccer-related medical issues, and roundtable discussions with medical experts and youth, amateur and professional soccer leaders.

In addition to the creation of the Soccer Medical Summit, MLS and U.S. Soccer announced Thursday that the two organizations will distribute concussion-related public service announcements via many platforms, including though television partners ESPN, Fox, NBC and Univision Deportes. Additional messaging to promote concussion awareness also will be incorporated into MLS matches and special events, US Men’s and Women’s national team games, U.S. Soccer website and applications and the MLS Digital Network and applications.

Thursday’s events at the White House also included a training session on the South Lawn for young soccer and football players on how to avoid head injuries. In addition, a panel discussion featuring former New England Revolution standout and current ESPN soccer analyst Taylor Twellman, former NFL All-Pro linebacker LaVar Arrington, U.S. Army General Ray Odierno and others will discuss the latest scientific research on concussions.

Concussion identification and prevention is a priority for Major League Soccer, and all clubs follow an extensive evaluation protocol and return-to-play guidelines for players diagnosed with concussions. The MLS Concussion Program Committee, chaired by Dr. Echemendia, developed these procedures, which are designed to provide the best possible diagnosis and treatment of brain injuries. These procedures supplement the diagnostic, educational and preventative measures that the league has taken in recent years. The MLS Concussion Program Committee includes representation from MLS administration, MLS Players Union administration, league players, team athletic trainers and physicians and an independent neurologist.

As in previous years, MLS conducted educational meetings during the 2014 preseason with every club’s players, coaches, technical staff, team athletic trainers and club physicians to review concussion prevention and symptoms. In addition, referees from the Professional Referees Organization participated in these educational meetings.