In Brief

Rugby union lawsuits: impact could be ‘astronomical’ for governing bodies

RPA says training protocols ‘need addressing very quickly’ over head injuries

Rugby union’s governing bodies could face lawsuits from up to 70 more former players over head injuries sustained during their careers. 

This week it was reported that England World Cup winner Steve Thompson and seven other ex-players are in the process of starting a negligence claim against authorities after being left with permanent brain damage. 

All eight have recently been diagnosed with the early signs of dementia, and they say repeated blows to the head are to blame, the BBC reports. When asked about the 2003 World Cup Thompson, 42, said: “I can’t remember any of those games. It’s frightening.”

The concussion lawsuit has been a “bombshell” for the Rugby Football Union, the Welsh Rugby Union and World Rugby, says the Daily Mail.

It’s understood that a British law firm has been instructed to act on behalf of around 70 ex-players who want to sue for damages over head injuries, claiming they have suffered amnesia, depression, migraines and dementia.

Safety measures 

Leading brain injury lawyer Ipek Tugcu of Bolt Burdon Kemp said immediate safety measures could be taken by authorities to reduce the risk of lawsuits from current and future players, The Guardian reports. 

If governing bodies are found guilty of a breach of their duty of care, the impact would be “astronomical”. Tugcu said: “The financial pay-outs per athlete could easily reach six-figure sums or more as they will need to cover all injuries and financial losses due to the injury.”

This week’s news has been “very distressing for everyone”, said Rugby Players’ Association (RPA) chief executive Damian Hopley. He told BBC Sport that the way players train needs to be addressed by governing bodies “very quickly” and more education was needed. 

“A big percentage of injuries occur during training so I think that has to be part of the opportunity to address these things and look at what can we do to make the game safer, as has been talked about,” he said. “Perhaps training protocols is something we need to address very quickly.” 

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