'Only a matter of time' before rugby players took action on concussion, Glasgow brain injury expert says

A leading Scottish brain injury expert has said it was “only a matter of time” before former rugby players considered legal action over brain injuries.

Jason White photographed by Lisa Ferguson in 2018.
Jason White photographed by Lisa Ferguson in 2018.

Glasgow University speciliast Dr Willie Stewart made the statement as former internationals from all over the world announced they are planning action for negligence against the rugby authorities over brain injuries they have suffered.

A ‘test group’ for a potentially much larger action includes former England players Steve Thompson and Michael Lipman, as well as ex-Wales international Alix Popham, according to Rylands Law.

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The planned action is against World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union, for “failure to protect (the claimants) from the risks caused by concussions”.Dr Stewart led the FIELD study research, commissioned by the Football Association and Professional Footballers’ Association, which revealed last year that footballers were three-and-a-half times more likely to die of neurodegenerative disease than age-matched members of the general population.

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“As we’ve learnt more about concussion and head injuries in sport, and the consequences of it, then I think it was only a matter of time before former players experiencing concussion problems sought some sort of legal status as to what is going on,” he said.

“Prevention is better than any cure. In terms of rugby, although they’ve made great strides in attempting to identify brain injuries on the park, the number of brain injuries in rugby is still phenomenally high.“In terms of the number of brain injuries and concussions identified, it is only a fraction of the number that are actually occurring.“And then there is the problem of head impacts themselves, never mind concussions. Cumulative exposure to head impacts, we believe, is just as much a risk as a handful of concussions.”

It comes after a campaign video was launched on Monday by former Scotland captain Jason White with Edinburgh University in a bid to educate players and coaches about the risks of concussion.

"Misconceptions and lack of awareness often prevent people from spotting the signs and symptoms of concussion, and from knowing what to do if they think it’s happened,” said Dr Stephanie Adams of Edinburgh University’s School of Education and Sport.

The video also features concussion campaigner Peter Robinson, who lost his son Ben following repeated concussions during a school rugby match.

Jason White encouraged players to seek medical attention after a knock to the head and not continue playing for fear of letting the team down, adding that he had felt “pressure” to continue playing in the past.

"You don’t want to let the team down, and that was always a big driver for me, to go out there and to play well for your team,” he said.

"To do well and not let anybody down. That is one of the things that hopefully the awareness of concussion really help with – you’re not letting anybody down. If you’ve had a bang to the head you need to look after yourself.”

He added: "During the world cup in 2011-2012 the team were missing a few players so there was a big stretch on who could play my position,” he said.

"Whether it was meant to, or whether it happened, I did feel pressure to come back and play

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