10 Ex-Rugby League Internationals to sue over brain damage

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LLB (Hons) & LPC Stacy Pimlott
Legally reviewed by: LLB (Hons) & LPC Stacy Pimlott In: Industrial Disease

Lawyers for ten former rugby league players have stated that all of them are suffering from ‘neurological complications’, as they join a wide group of former professional athletes who are suffering from serious brain injuries.

Legal Action Claims

Ex-Great Britain scrum-half Bobbie Goulding is one of the many sportsmen who are coming forward to state the damage that has been done to them from their chosen profession. Ten former rugby league players are now planning a legal claim against the Rugby Football League for negligence. This follow similar action by rugby union players including England’s World Cup winner Steve Thompson. Goulding has recently been diagnosed with early-onset dementia, and said that there is not enough protection for players who sustain head injuries during play. He stated that he could recall at least three times in his career when he had been expected to play within days of being knocked unconscious.

Richard Boardman is the lawyer who is representing a total of 50 former professional rugby players, all of whom are displaying symptoms associated with neurological conditions. Additionally, he is also representing 175 former rugby union players, including Steve Thompson, in a separate lawsuit. He has said that the legal process is not just about financial compensation, but making the game safer and getting tested and diagnosed to undertake urgent clinical support. ‘The vast majority of the former players we represent love the game and don’t want to see it harmed in any way,’ Boardman has said, ‘They just want to make it safer so current and future generations don’t end up like them. We’re asking the RFL to make a number of immediate, relatively low-cost changes to save the sport, such as limiting contact in training and extending the return to play following a concussion.’

The Rugby Football League has stated in response that, ‘The RFL takes player safety and welfare extremely seriously and has been saddened to hear about some of the former player’s difficulties…rugby league is a contact sport and, while there is an element of risk to playing any sport, player welfare is always of paramount importance…as a result of scientific knowledge, the sport of rugby league continues to improve and develop its approach to concussion, head injury assessment, education, management and prevention across the whole game. We will continue to use medical evidence and research to reinforce and enhance our approach.’

How do contact sports cause brain injuries?

The main brain injury that sports players may be at risk of is Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). This is a neurodegenerative disease which causes severe and irreparable brain damage as a result of repeated head injuries. A number of recorded cases in ex-professional footballers were initially attributed to the weight of older balls. However, it has since been discovered that even modern balls are damaging, with their potential velocity causing just as much impact on the skull. Generally, the symptoms do not begin until years after the injuries and they can include behavioural problems, mood problems, and problems with thinking. The disease can ultimately result in early onset dementia.

With these high-profile cases mounting and being reported in the press, it is important that lower-level players and grass roots clubs are also paying attention to the safety regulations that are being recommended. If you believe that you have suffered due to safety negligence, then we can help you.

Read more on our head injuries in football article

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