Rugby faces legal challenge on concussion from former players

A group of former rugby players is considering a joint legal action against the game’s governing bodies over the effects of concussions they suffered during their careers.

The group of players could seek damages from the Rugby Football Union and other governing bodies. Picture: Warren Little/Getty Images
The group of players could seek damages from the Rugby Football Union and other governing bodies. Picture: Warren Little/Getty Images

According to a report in the Daily Telegraph, around 70 players have been approached about pursuing litigation.

The group includes former internationals from England and Wales who sustained head knocks during their careers. Since retiring, they are reported to have suffered symptoms such as memory loss, insomnia, migraines and depression.

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The Telegraph reports that former England lock Mouritz Botha, who retired through concussion, had been approached. Two former All Blacks, Carl Hayman and Geoff Old, told the New Zealand Herald that they have been contacted. Rugby league players are also understood to be involved.

The potential lawsuit is being hailed as a “game changer”, similar to the action taken by 4,500 former American football players in 2012 against the NFL, which may be forced to pay out $1 billion in compensation.

The law firm representing the former rugby players believes it has similar grounds to seek damages against governing bodies such as World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union.

Former England flanker Michael Lipman recently revealed that he is suffering from early onset dementia aged just 40.

In 2014, the Scottish Rugby Union asked for former international players to come forward to help with an extensive medical project designed to better understand how concussions can lead to brain conditions such as dementia and Parkinson’s Disease.

A large number of former NFL players have been diagnosed with or have had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a neurodegenerative disease which can include behavioral problems, mood problems, and problems with thinking. The disease often gets worse over time and can result in dementia.

Rugby union has one of the highest rates of concussion among team sports.

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