Former Portland Timbers player Eddie Johnson filed a $9.9 million lawsuit in Multnomah County Circuit Court February 5, 2014 against the Timbers ownership group, Peregrine Sports LLC, and the team’s medical group and three members of the team’s medical staff.

Johnson’s lawsuit claims that the team failed to properly examine his neurological health before the start of the 2012 season, after he suffered two season-ending concussions the previous year.  When Johnson returned in 2012, he was and still is experiencing symptoms including headaches, memory impairment, impaired balance, blurred vision, dizziness, sleep difficulties, fatigue, anxiety, and depression.

Regardless of his symptoms, Johnson was permitted to return to play, and on February 6, 2012, he suffered a further head injury from heading the ball or from physical exertion. Johnson’s lawsuit claims that negligence by the Timbers and their doctors in failing to follow return to play protocol caused him to suffer “serious and permanent traumatic head and brain injuries.”  It states “Eddie Johnson did not have a proper evaluation done regarding his previous season-ending concussion or head injury before being permitted to fully return to play to participate in pre-season professional soccer activities.”

MLS Return to Play Protocol

Major League Soccer’s official return to play protocol for athletes suffering concussions, which was implemented in 2011 (the “RTP Protocol”), mandates baseline testing for all players. Any player with a suspected brain injury must be immediately removed from games or training and evaluated by medical staff.  If the player is determined to have a concussion, he will not be cleared to return to the game until fully evaluated. Once the player is physically and cognitively symptom-free, a designated team consulting neuropsychologist evaluates the player using neuropsychological testing to ensure that the player is cognitively fit to begin gradually increasing aerobic activity.