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Personal Injury Claims for Concussion in Rugby

Concussion in sports such as football have been a hot topic over the years, but more recently rugby has been at the forefront of the debate.

In 2020-21 a report was released by the Rugby Football Union (RFU) which showed concussion was the most reported injury in rugby, accounting for 28% of all injuries. Whilst overall there has been a decrease in reported injuries in the sport, concussion in elite rugby has hit an all-time high since records began. Coincidently the report was published on the same day the World Rugby Union confirmed its plan to extend the minimum stand down time from 6 days up to 12.

Alix Popham, former Wales back-rower, was diagnosed with early onset dementia in 2021 at the age of 40. His doctor estimates the former player sustained more than 100,000 sub concussion blows in his professional career. When discussing the risks associated with the sport, he says ‘we knew our bodies were going to be in bits when we retired, but we had no clue our brains were as well.’

In December 2021, a group of players launched a class action against World Rugby for negligence and their failure to protect players from the risks caused by concussion. Players include Popham and England World Cup Winner, Steve Thompson who also revealed he was diagnosed with early signs of dementia at the age of 42, after he could not remember winning the world cup.

This class action, which is being referred to as a ‘ticking time bomb’, is every growing and with claim forms yet to be lodged at court, who really knows how big this landmark legal case will be for the future of rugby.

What is concussion?

England Rugby describes concussion as ‘a traumatic brain injury resulting from a blow to the head or body which results in forces being transmitted to the brain. This typically presents as a rapid onset of short-lived impairment of brain function that resolves spontaneously. A range of signs and symptoms are typically seen, affecting the player’s thinking, memory, mood, behaviour, level of consciousness, and various physical effects. Recovery typically happens over a period of days or weeks, although in some cases symptoms may be prolonged.

But it’s rugby?

Rugby is a contact sport involving frequent body impacts and risks of accidental head impacts and therefore it does come with inherent risks of concussion. However, players have the right to the correct diagnosis and treatment. RFU in conjunction with HEADCASE have set out a campaign specifically designed to help identity the signs that indicate a player has suffered from concussion and provides guidance as to when it is safe for a player to return to the pitch.

How do you prove concussion in personal injury claims?

The burden of proof is on the Claimant. Firstly, the Claimant must prove that on a balance of probabilities that the negligence caused, or materially contributed to their injury. Secondly, the Claimant must show their consequential losses flow from their injury. And lastly, if the Claimant developed a risk of developing symptoms, the Claimant must prove the risk is above a 50% chance.

What should I do if I’m injured playing rugby?

If you’re injured playing rugby with your school or with a club, there’s a couple of things you should do. First, seek medical attention, it is important that you are properly assessed, particularly if you are planning on continuing with the game. Secondly, ensure the accident and the medical assessment is reported in writing. Lastly, you should also take details of anyone that witnessed the incident.

If you’ve been injured playing rugby and you are unsure whether you have a claim, contact our specialist Personal Injury team and we’d be happy to talk to you. Call us today on 0808 252 5231 or request a call back from us.

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