Lawyers making high profile claims on behalf of retired rugby players insist that they are not driven by the prospect of compensation.
A test group of eight players, all under 45, including English World Cup winner Steve Thompson (pictured above), are planning to bring legal negligence lawsuits against World Rugby, England Rugby and Wales Rugby Union for their alleged failure to meet them protect against risks that led to concussions.
Their allegation states that the defendants “owed them, as individual professional gamblers, a duty to take due care of their safety by establishing and enforcing rules for the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of actual or suspected concussion and sub-concussion injuries” .
Attorney Richard Boardman of Rylands Law (a trading name of the national law firm Aticus Law) said he represents more than 100 former professionals in their twenties and fifties, many of whom have symptoms related to neurological complications. He said there is a “ticking time bomb” of potentially hundreds of other former gamblers developing early-onset dementia and a likely CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).
“The vast majority of the former players we represent love the game and don’t want it to be harmed in any way,” he said. “They just want to make it safer so that current and future generations don’t end up like them.”
Thompson, who won 73 caps for England and was on the 2003 World Cup winning team, is the highest profile of applicants. He now says he has no memory of that triumph and says that repeated head butts suffered in training and games are to blame.
CTE was founded by Dr. Benet Omalu discovered in American football player Mike Webster and is a progressive degenerative brain disease that occurs in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma. Boardman said his clients have shown the same symptoms, including depression, memory loss and inability to process information, a lack of temperament, and in some cases, attempted suicide.
Rugby Football Union (RFU), which operates the sport in England, said: “The RFU has not taken any legal approach to this matter. The Union takes the safety of players very seriously and implements injury prevention and treatment strategies based on the latest research and knowledge.
“The Union has played an important role in establishing injury monitoring, concussion education and assessment, collaborating on research, and supporting legislative changes and enforcement to ensure proactive management of players’ wellbeing.”