Claimants have submitted over 5,000 pages of medical records in an application for a Group Litigation Order (GLO) being made in the UK High Court on Friday. Rugby union’s concussion litigation has now grown to 300 players who are taking legal action against World Rugby, the RFU and WRU arising from the brain injuries they have sustained from, allegedly, playing rugby.
A significant step in the action, the granting of the GLO would make the action a group one rather than several hundred individual claims. An additional application for anonymity is also being made to the court.
Not all of the claimants are rugby union players. There are over 450 players in total, with rugby league included as well as 25 from football. From the rugby union group, 77 have played internationally for Wales, 55 played for England and eight for Scotland. There are five Irish players included in the action.
The former Irish players involved in the proceedings are being handled by Dublin based Maguire McClafferty LLP Solicitors in conjunction and cooperation with Richard Boardman and his UK team at Rylands Garth.
The claimants contend that the defendants were negligent in failing to take reasonable action in order to protect players from permanent injury caused by repetitive concussive and sub-concussive blows.
Many players now suffer from various irreversible neurological impairments, including motor neurone disease, early onset dementia, CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy), post-concussion syndrome, epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease.
Over 35 former players in the concussion actions have already spoken publicly about their brain injuries, the catastrophic symptoms and the effect the condition is having on their post playing lives. These include international players such as England’s World Cup-winner Steve Thompson, Alix Popham of Wales and the former All Black prop Carl Hayman.
Among the allegations raised by the claimants is the failure by the defendants to limit the number of games and contact training sessions, a failure to monitor and reduce individual player exposure to concussive and sub-concussive impacts and that the organising bodies were over-reliant on the advice of the Concussion in Sports Group’s consensus statements.
Another allegation made includes the failure by the defendants to respond reasonably or at all to findings at the 1997 inquest into the death of the 23-year-old Ian Tucker by failing to properly consider the evidence which revealed a young rugby union player was exhibiting signs of CTE/dementia pugilistica.
A number of Irish players including Dominic Ryan and David Corkery have spoken about how their lives changed post rugby, Ryan retiring from the game prematurely because of symptoms. A once outstanding, flanker who thrived on big hits became consumed by anxiety and self-doubt. In 2018, Ryan recounted to this newspaper his terrifying symptoms.
“I had had migraines before around concussions but only directly related to trauma. I couldn’t talk on the phone,” he said. “I found people talking in my ear irritating. I remember going out for coffee with the lads, it wasn’t even a sunny day and I had my sunglasses on. It sounds stupid but that little bit of extra darkness the sunglasses afforded me helped.
“That migraine lasted two weeks. It was intense for about five or six days. Going over ramps in a car I had to ask whoever was driving to slow down, crawl over them, because my brain was properly humming, absolutely pounding. The club sent me home for a week to recuperate.”
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