Rugby faces concussion lawsuit bombshell as 70 former players plan to sue over head injuries

The Rugby Football Union, the Welsh Rugby Union and World Rugby could all be subjected to legal action by former players who have endured severe health problems linked to head injuries during their careers. 

It is understood that a British law firm have been instructed to act on behalf of around 70 ex-players – including former England and Wales internationals – who want to to sue governing bodies for damages, having endured the after-effects of concussions.

While proceedings have not been officially launched yet, it is understood to be merely a matter of time.  

‘We believe we will be looking at an epidemic,’ one insider told The Daily Telegraph. ‘We imagine there will be hundreds if not thousands of players once we go public.’

The action would be similar to a concussion class action which has engulfed the NFL. Around 4,500 former American Football players are suing the league in one group action,  

Former All Black prop Carl Hayman confirmed the players are gearing up for a legal battle

Former All Black prop Carl Hayman confirmed the players are gearing up for a legal battle

Former All Black prop Carl Hayman confirmed the players are gearing up for a legal battle

The New Zealand Herald quoted former All Black prop Carl Hayman as saying: ‘From what I understand, it’s a pretty ever-growing list of (players). I think it’s going to be something quite substantial.’ 

One recent England player told Sportsmail that actions and advice from the RFU in relation to concussion episodes have been under intense scrutiny.

Michael Lipman, the ex-Bath flanker who won 10 caps for England between 2004 and 2008, has been suffering the symptoms of mild dementia, at the age of just 40. 

Michael Lipman suffered 30 concussions during his career and now has mild dementia at 40

Now living in Australia, he estimates that he suffered 30 concussions during his career and told the Sydney Morning Herald last month: ‘If I wasn’t completely knocked out, I played on.’

According to the Daily Telegraph, former England lock Mouritz Botha – who was forced to retire due to concussion – has confirmed that he is involved in the group action, which also reportedly involves rugby league players.

The potential ‘epidemic’ of these cases has created a torrent of health issues including amnesia, depression and migraines.

Former All Blacks forward Geoff Old (right) has also been in contact with British-based lawyers

Former All Blacks forward Geoff Old (right) has also been in contact with British-based lawyers

Former All Blacks forward Geoff Old (right) has also been in contact with British-based lawyers

The legal action in America was given added impetus when the biggest ever study into American Football brain injuries diagnosed CTE in 99 percent of former NFL players’ brains in post-mortem examinations.

Boston University led the groundbreaking and ambitious research project to identify whether there was a direct link between concussions on the field and neurodegenerative diseases in players – including the late Aaron Hernandez.

They focused on chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a little-understood condition a progressive neurodegeneration associated with repetitive head trauma. It has been linked to ALS (also called ‘locked-in syndrome’) and Alzheimer’s.

 

Shocking new figures on brain damage reveal neurodegenerative diseases were a factor in deaths of 42 per cent of top-flight footballers from the 1965-66 season

A new study reveals neurodegenerative diseases were a factor in 42% of the deaths of top flight footballers playing in England during the 1965-66 season

But the new research, undertaken by the Mail on Sunday, will only add momentum to the campaign for further investigation into the dangers of playing the game, and heading in particular.

ENGLAND’S 1966 HEROES HIT BY ELZHEIMER’S OR DEMENTIA

 Six members of England’s World Cup-winning squad, including Jack Charlton, have died with Alzheimer’s or dementia

Of England’s 22-man squad for the 1966 World Cup, 13 have died and six of those (or 46 per cent) with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

The six 1966 players dying from Alzheimer’s or other dementias are goalkeeper Peter Bonetti, defenders Nobby Stiles, Jack Charlton, Ray Wilson and Gerry Byrne, and midfielder Martin Peters. A seventh player, Sir Bobby, was recently diagnosed with dementia. 

 

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The conclusions of the Mail on Sunday ‘s work have been described as ‘startling’ and ‘important’ by Dr Willie Stewart, the world’s foremost expert on the link between football and brain injury-related deaths.

Dr Stewart, a consultant neuropathologist based in Glasgow, led the biggest study to date on the subject, published a year ago, comparing the causes of death of 7,676 former Scottish male professional football players born between 1900 and 1976 against more than 23,000 individuals from the general population. 

The new Mail on Sunday study focussed specifically on the pool of 475 first-team players at the 22 clubs in England’s top division in 1965-66.

Of that group, 185 have died to date, and at least 79 of those, or 42 per cent, have died with neurodegenerative illnesses or conditions associated with traumatic brain injury.

The vast majority of the 79 died from Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias, or Parkinson’s disease or related disorders, or motor neurone disease.

When a formal cause of a death was a different condition, for example cancer or pulmonary embolism, but a player had endured years of dementia, the Mail on Sunday included those players as having died with (if not of) dementia.   

Of the 79 players known to have died with neurodegenerative conditions, the average age of death was 74, and the median age 75. This too is shocking. The chances of a British man dying of such a cause (across all age groups) is around 13 per cent, ranging from around six per cent among 70-year-olds to around 10 per cent of 75-year-olds to around 25 per cent by the age of 90. 

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