mental health

Group of sports-related brain injury claims increases to 378

Group of sports-related brain injury claims increases to 378
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A group of former football, rugby league and rugby union players who are filing a lawsuit claiming to have suffered brain damage while playing their respective sports has risen to 378.

The new claimants include 100 former rugby league players, 40 former rugby union players and 14 former footballers.

The lawyers are due to lodge the complaints in the High Court on Tuesday.

More than 200 former rugby players began taking action last year and legal experts said the allegations could top £300m.

Dafydd James, 47, former member of Wales Rugby Union and British and Irish Lions revealed to the BBC that he is one of the former players diagnosed with dementia praecoxexternal link.

The plaintiffs allege that the governing bodies of the games were negligent in failing to take reasonable steps to protect the players from permanent injury from repetitive and sub-concussive blows.

“There’s a remarkable consistency of symptoms across all of these contact sports and it’s very grim,” said Richard Boardman of sports law firm Rylands Garth, which acts for all plaintiffs.

“Everyone, the lawyers included in this case, are all fans of these sports and our main priority is to look after our players with brain injuries and they need urgent clinical support and damages. -interests for themselves and their families.

“We ultimately want these sports to survive long into the future, but urgent and immediate change is clearly needed.”

Among the former rugby union stars involved in the complaint are former British and Irish Lion and Wales captain Ryan Jones, England international and World Cup winner Steve Thompson and former Wales international Alix Popham.

Popham, who was also diagnosed with dementia praecox in 2020, told Radio Wales Breakfast: “It’s a problem that doesn’t go away.

“There are things that could be done tomorrow that would make the game safer, but it’s not being done.

“It’s not just changes in the game, but the things that happen in the week – 90 per cent of my damage was from training and that needs to be looked at.

“It’s not World Rugby, it’s not the WRU or the RFU who make the decisions, it’s the lawyers at the moment and they’re playing chess with the lives of the players. They have to make the changes and they have to be done now. Each day that continues current players are affected.”

Wales Rugby Union, the Rugby Football Union and World Rugby – the game’s governing body – said they were still awaiting full details of the allegations made against them.

They added in a joint statement: “We care deeply for every member of the rugby family and have been saddened by the courageous personal testimonies of Dafydd and other former players struggling with health issues.

“While legal claims prevent us from speaking directly to Dafydd, we would like him and his family to know that we care, we listen and we never stand still when it comes to further solidifying rugby as a sport. the most progressive for the well-being of athletes.

“Acting on the latest scientific data, evidence and independent expert advice, we are constantly striving to protect and support all of our players – future, current and former. Rugby is a leader in prevention, managing and identifying head-on impacts and World Rugby is also proactively funding transformational research, encouraging innovation and exploring technologies that can make the sport as accessible, inclusive and safe as possible for all participants.”

“It’s more of a problem for the people you love around you”

Colin Gibson has made nearly 500 career appearances for Manchester United and Aston Villa, with whom he won the league title and the European Cup

Colin Gibson remembers winning the European Cup with Aston Villa in 1982.

Time may have eroded some of the clarity, but the emotion of beating Bayern Munich in Rotterdam 41 years ago remains.

“I remember all the joy,” said the 62-year-old, who was a substitute that day.

“I’m a bit of a winner, I liked to win and even though we played badly and won I was much happier than if we played brilliantly and lost. It was all about winning and it was a fantastic experience. I I would do it again in a heartbeat.”

Gibson also remembers his goal for Manchester United against Liverpool in 1986 when Bruce Grobbelaar knocked down his first shot from the Kop side. Likewise, he remembers the howl from a free-kick he scored later that same season in the Manchester derby.

But now Gibson will sometimes drive out and drive home five minutes later after forgetting why he left the house.

And as trivial as it sounds, it’s a symptom of something more.

“It was happening more and more and I thought it was a little strange, we have to do something about it,” said GIbson’s wife, Kim.

“I probably harassed him a bit too much, but I said let’s just check, maybe nothing, but it could be something.”

It was something. In 2019, Colin was diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s disease.

“Obviously it affects me, don’t get me wrong, but it affects the kids, you don’t know if they say something that you will remember,” he said.

“If they’re going to bring the grandkids, do I remember them bringing the grandkids? Things like that are more of a problem for the people you love around you.”

Gibson, who also played for Leicester City and Walsall, is one of 15 former footballers currently pursuing legal action against the game’s governing bodies for negligence.

As for the governing bodies. they are still working on the best way to handle a concussion.

A study aimed at reducing the risk of dementia in former footballers, funded by the Football Association (FA) and world governing body Fifa, was launched last year.

Last month the Premier League said it was “disappointed” that a trial of temporary concussion substitutes has been rejected by football’s governing body, the International Football Association Board (Ifab).

“The game today has a lot of money and that money is there for the players thanks to us and the guys who played 40 years before us and 40 years before them,” Gibson said.

“Use the research revealed by my condition, other people’s conditions and use it for their own benefit to improve and make the game safer.”

On why he joined the claim, he explained: ‘We’re putting our names down to say ‘are there any health and safety measures the FA should have done’?

“If you look at most professions and someone hit their head and got 11 stitches in their head, they would send you home, put you in the hospital.

“They wouldn’t sew you up and send you back to the field.

“So there comes a point where there may have been a problem with that and that’s something, everyone has to watch that and watch it properly.

“No one will take away that there is no problem, because there is.”

The FA have been approached by the BBC for comment.

“I was never told about the risks”

Salford's Luke Robinson tackles St Helens' Nick Fozzard during a Super League game in 2007
Nick Fozzard had a stellar rugby league career

Nick Fozzard was a badass in a tough sport.

“I once broke my cheekbone, tore ligaments in my eyes, had a concussion,” he said. “I didn’t find out I had done all that damage until a few weeks later. I missed a game.”

At 6ft 3in and nearly 17 stone, the former supporting striker admits it was the ‘brutality’ of rugby league that attracted him.

“The problem isn’t getting injured, you’re going to get injured playing rugby league, but when you do get injured you need to be fixed afterwards as best you can and the systems need to be in place. “

Fozzard had a stellar Super League career, including for Leeds Rhinos, Warrington Wolves and St Helens, earning a cap to Great Britain.

Now 45, he was diagnosed with dementia praecox and probably Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). external link

That’s why he is one of 100 former rugby league players to take legal action against the sport’s governing body in the UK, the Rugby Football League (RFL).

“I was never told about the risks. Nobody said ‘listen, it’s a really difficult and difficult sport, it’s the risks, it’s what could happen to you if you play it and then you know What’s the score “.

“But I didn’t know the score. I didn’t know I was going to forget everyone’s friend names and it would change my personality.”

The RFL says it provides support for former professional players through its charity partner RL Cares.

He added: “The RFL takes the safety and well-being of players very seriously, and it was desperately saddened to hear of the players’ struggles.

“Rugby league is a contact sport and while there is an element of risk in playing any sport, the welfare of the players is always of paramount importance.

“Through scientific knowledge, the sport of rugby league continues to improve and develop its approach to concussion, head injury assessment, education, management and prevention in the whole game.

“We will continue to use medical evidence and research to strengthen and improve our approach.”

“You’re a little scared,” Fozzard said.

“My fiancée is scared. How long has she been holding me, and even if I’m here, how long am I going to be me? Head trauma, dementia and CTE, it’s a very serious and worrying thing that no one can tell. knows the measure of the rapidity of your regression.

“I’m lucky with the support I have, but not everyone has that support system.”

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