Former Soccer Player Joins Lawsuit Against N.C.A.A.By MARY PILONAngelica Palacios can still remember the concussion that ended her collegiate soccer career.
It was during a practice drill for her team at Ouachita Baptist University. Having suffered a couple of concussions since she started playing the sport when she was 4 years old, she played in headgear as a protective measure. But she said even that didn’t provide much reprieve when she was injured last year.
“It was hard for me to quit because it’s something I have done for 15 years,” she said. “But did I want to play soccer or get an education?”
Palacios has joined the high-profile head injury lawsuit against the N.C.A.A., widening the group of plaintiffs beyond male football players to include collegiate athletes in just about any sport – hockey, lacrosse and soccer players are among those now included in the class. While head injuries in football have gained attention in recent years, the toll has been less clear in other collegiate and elite sports like women’s soccer.
The suit argues that the N.C.A.A. “has engaged in a long-established pattern of negligence and inaction with respect to concussions and concussion-related maladies sustained by its student-athletes, all while profiting immensely from those same student-athletes.”
The complaint also claims that the N.C.A.A. has failed to implement “return to play” guidelines for athletes with concussions, and screening and detection guidelines for head injuries.
The allegations against the N.C.A.A. are “misguided and off-base,” a spokeswoman, Stacey Osburn, said in a statement.
“These claims demonstrate a clear lack of understanding of our long history of action on this matter,” Osburn said. “The N.C.A.A. has been at the forefront of safety issues throughout its existence, and the Association has specifically addressed the issue of head injuries through a combination of playing rules, equipment requirements and medical best practices.
“The N.C.A.A. has great compassion for student-athletes who are injured as a result of training, practice or competition, which fuels our desire to make student-athlete safety our top priority.”
A spokesman for Ouachita Baptist did not respond to a request for comment.
Palacios grew up in Mansfield, Tex., and started playing soccer after watching her brothers play. She played on top teams as a child and into high school, then landed a spot on the Ouachita Baptist team.
“It wasn’t just a hobby,” she said. “It was my life. It was something I knew I could count on. It was my time to get away and enjoy myself.”
For about three years before joining her college team, Palacios wore headgear while she played as a protective measure after having suffered earlier injuries.
During a practice drill in her sophomore year, Palacios said, she was hit right under her headgear by another player’s head while she was in a group of girls going for a header.
“It hit me in the eyebrow,” she said. “I turned and it was already swollen. There was a knot in my eyebrow.”
Her coach checked her injury and she was pulled off the field. Palacios said she felt dizzy and nauseated. The incident happened on a Tuesday and she didn’t play for the rest of the day. But Palacios said she was made to run the next Saturday and felt pressure from her coach to get back into the game, even though she didn’t feel well. “I didn’t want to cause any problems,” she said.
Today, she said, her eyesight in one eye is less than what it used to be, but she said she was lucky she was not hurt further.
“I don’t want anyone to go through anything like I did,” she said. Her headaches lasted for about a month and a half and her eye was black for three months, she said. But more alarming to Palacios was the toll the injuries took on her memory.
“I got frustrated easily because I couldn’t remember a lot of things,” she said. “Having to concentrate was just impossible.”
Palacios, 20, transferred to the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, where she is a junior. She no longer plays soccer.
“To play the sport at a competitive level, you have to be willing to head the ball and do whatever it takes,” she said. “I know some teams make their players wear headgear for this reason because it is so easy to get a concussion.”
Former Soccer Player Joins Lawsuit Against N.C.A.A. - NYTimes.com