295 players are taking legal action against World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union.
England’s World Cup winners Phil Vickery and Mark Regan, along with former Wales star Gavin Henson, have been revealed to be among 295 former players who are taking legal action after suffering a range of symptoms they claim came from brain injuries in their careers.
After the partial lifting of an anonymity order at the Royal Courts of Justice, a list of 226 players was released on Friday evening, including a dozen England internationals and more than 30 Wales Test players. They are suing World Rugby, the Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union over the claims.
There are now three members of England’s 2003 World Cup-winning squad who are suffering neurological difficulties, including former hooker Steve Thompson, who has been diagnosed with early-onset dementia and has no memory of playing in the final. Vickery also started that match and went on to captain England in the 2007 final, alongside Thompson .
Other prominent players include a host of former Lions including former Wales captains Ryan Jones and Colin Charvis, former centre Dafydd James and ex-England scrum-half Harry Ellis.
The players are claiming rugby authorities failed in their duty of care by not putting in place reasonable measures to protect their health and safety, which has led to individuals developing conditions such as motor neurone disease, early-onset dementia, epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease.
World Rugby, the RFU and WRU strongly reject those claims.
England internationals involved in the claim include Mouritz Botha, Chris Jones, Duncan Bell, Paul Sampson, Jason Hobson, Dan Scarborough and Michael Lipman. Former All Black prop Carl Hayman and Sean Lamont, who won more than 100 caps for Scotland, with internationals from ten countries represented in the case.
The majority of the cohort are in their 30s or 40s but the youngest player listed is Joseph Cook, who played amateur rugby, at 22. The youngest professional involved is Theo Brophy-Clews, a former London Irish fly-half, who is just 26. Other players in the case have applied for anonymity.
The release of the majority of the 295 names followed a case management hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice on Friday as an application to establish a group litigation order, which would pool the individual claims into a single group action, was rejected.
The senior master in the case, Jeremy Cook, said the defendants needed access to the detailed medical records for all of the players involved on top of their diagnosis that they have symptoms consistent with brain injuries. He appeared to chastise the claimants legal team, Rylands Garth, for failing to provide the necessary medical records which means a new case management hearing will be heard in the spring of next year.
“Unless the medical records are prepared properly, we’re going to have a lot of issues,” Cook said. “The very least one needs in a case of this kind is medical records.”
A joint statement from World Rugby, the RFU and the WRU, said: “Whilst today’s case management hearing was necessarily about legal process, we must not forget about the people and players at the heart of this case.
These increasing concerns and legal actions related to concussions in rugby pose a significant existential threat to the sport. Addressing player safety, implementing stricter protocols, and fostering a culture of awareness are crucial for the long-term sustainability of rugby.
Concussion lawsuits can have substantial financial implications for rugby. Legal expenses, settlements, and potential changes in insurance costs may strain the sport’s finances. Additionally, sponsors and investors might be cautious, affecting revenue streams. Proactive measures to mitigate risks and prioritize player safety are essential to safeguard the sport’s financial stability.
What can be learnt from the NFL ?
Concussion lawsuits have had a notable impact on the NFL’s financial landscape. The league faced substantial legal settlements with former players, resulting in significant financial payouts. Additionally, the heightened awareness of concussion risks has led to increased investments in player safety initiatives and research.
This evolving landscape emphasizes the importance of prioritizing player well-being in professional sports
The concussion lawsuits against the NFL prompted a series of legal battles and settlements with former players who alleged that the league did not adequately address or inform them about the risks of head injuries. These legal actions resulted in the NFL agreeing to a multi-billion dollar settlement to compensate affected players and their families. The financial implications included the league establishing funds for medical examinations, research, and education related to player health.
In response to the growing concerns about player safety, the NFL has implemented various initiatives to address and prevent concussions. This includes rule changes, improved equipment, and enhanced protocols for diagnosing and managing head injuries during games. The league has also invested heavily in medical research to better understand the long-term effects of concussions and explore ways to minimize associated risks.
While the financial impact of these measures has been significant, the NFL, as a highly lucrative and popular sports entity, has been able to absorb these costs. The ongoing challenge, however, lies in balancing the financial aspects with the moral and ethical responsibility to prioritize player welfare. The league’s commitment to evolving its policies and practices underscores the broader shift in the sports industry toward prioritizing the health and safety of athletes.
Rugby as a global sport is however, a far less lucrative brand than the NFL, so how it absorbs the costs will be fundamental to it’s sustainability going forward.How this all filters down into grass roots rugby both in terms of health protocols and financing is also of grave concern
The financial challenges in the Premier League rugby are already multifaceted, influenced by factors such as escalating player salaries, limited matchday revenue due to stadium restrictions, and potential sponsorship uncertainties. Clubs already need strategic financial planning and league-wide collaboration to address these issues effectively. The developments around litigation and concussion ,will only compound this.
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