World Rugby and the national governing bodies for the sport of England and Wales have come under fire, with more than 100 former professionals taking legal action against them.
The former players believe the governing bodies failed to protect them from permanent injury caused by repeated concussions throughout their careers.
A number of the players in the group, including Carl Hayman (New Zealand), Alix Popham (Wales) and Steve Thompson (England), are suffering from neurological impairments like CTE, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, motor neurone disease and early onset dementia.
The law firm Rylands Legal is representing the group, stating that they have made contact with more than 185 former rugby union professionals, with action being taken for most of the 185, with the rest planning on taking action soon.
In a statement on the issue, Rylands Legal said: “This claim isn’t just about financial compensation, it is also about making the game safer and ensuring current and former players get tested so that if they are suffering a brain injury they can get the clinical help they need.”
The law firm has also claimed that this is the biggest class action of its kind outside of the US.
The NFL had to settle thousands of law suits from former players in 2013, after they had developed dementia or other concussion related health issues that had been caused by on-field clashes.
To date, the NFL has paid out more than US$800 million and the full settlement is expected to cost US$1bn.
The NFL spared themselves a trial over claims that they had hidden their knowledge on the link between concussions and brain injuries, by agreeing to the settlement.
The design of the settlement fund is to cover more than 20,000 retirees who are suffering from various brain disorders as a direct result of playing in the league.
In the case of the former rugby players, the allegations raised include their beliefs of the failure the governing bodies had to “take proper steps as the game turned professional to respond to a disregard for player safety and brain health at the club and international level”.
They also claim that the bodies did not educate players about the risks of permanent brain damage or subject them to regular monitoring, as well as not seeing any medical advice on the issue.
Rylands Legal also said: “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.”
Last week former Wales captain Ryan Jones announced that he had been diagnosed with early onset dementia as well as probable CTE.
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