By Lori Ewing MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – Another 55 amateur rugby players who are suffering from neurological impairments joined the growing list of claimants in a class-action concussion lawsuit on Monday, claiming that the sport’s governing bodies failed to take reasonable action to protect them. London sports law firm Rylands Garth issued proceedings on behalf […]
Rugby-Another 55 amateur players join concussion lawsuit
By Lori Ewing
MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) – Another 55 amateur rugby players who are suffering from neurological impairments joined the growing list of claimants in a class-action concussion lawsuit on Monday, claiming that the sport’s governing bodies failed to take reasonable action to protect them.
London sports law firm Rylands Garth issued proceedings on behalf of the 55 players against World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) and the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU), taking the number involved to 250 in the latest chapter in one of the sport’s biggest stories.
“The players we represent love the game,” Rylands Garth said in a statement. “We aim to challenge the current perceptions of the governing bodies, to reach a point where they accept the connection between repetitive blows to the head and permanent neurological injury and to take steps to protect players and support those who are injured.”
The lack of protection against repetitive concussive and sub-concussive blows, the law firm said, has led to irreversible neurological impairments, including early onset dementia, CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), post-concussion syndrome, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and motor neurone disease.
“(CTE) is a cruel and progressive degenerative disease of the brain found in many players of contact sports leading to repetitive brain trauma,” they said.
Rylands Garth applauded Monday’s news that World Rugby is recommending that the tackle height be lowered to below the sternum in the amateur game, following a similar move by the RFU, albeit one that has had to be quickly reappraised after widespread criticism of their failure to consult almost anyone about the plan.
World Rugby pointed to studies in France and South Africa that showed positive advancements in terms of player safety and overall game experience.
“However, it is too little, too late for our clients and many thousands of others to have played the game,” the law firm said.
Among the allegations are a failure by defendants to educate and warn about the risks of permanent brain injury, reduce the amount of contact allowed in training and reduce the number of matches in a season.
Rylands Garth represents over 250 Rugby Union players with brain damage in total, including England World Cup winner Steve Thompson and former Wales captain Ryan Jones, as well as 100 Rugby League players, as part of a separate but similar potential claim against the RFL.
Claimants range from in their 20s through to their 70s.
“Several players we represent have, sadly, died from their brain injuries,” the firm said.
Worrying symptoms in numerous cases from both rugby union and league, they added, include chronic depression, aggression, significant memory loss, incontinence, drug and alcohol addiction, and in some cases suicide attempts.
In a joint statement in 2022, World Rugby, the RFU and WRU said: “We care deeply about all our players, and never stand still when it comes to welfare. Our strategies to prevent, identify and manage head injuries are driven by a passion to safeguard our players and founded on the latest science, evidence and independent expert guidance.”
The sport has been wrestling with the issue of concussion for several years with the focus in the professional game being on trying to reduce head-to-head and shoulder-to-head contact, which invariably now attracts a yellow or red card for the offender.
The issue of repetitive head trauma has exploded in numerous sports in recent years. In 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for the National Football League’s estimated $1 billion settlement of concussion-related lawsuits with more than 4,500 former players, one of the largest lawsuits in U.S. history.
In 2019, the NHL paid $18.49 million to settle a concussion lawsuit brought by more than 100 players.
(Reporting by Lori Ewing, editing by Pritha Sarkar)
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