Earlier this year, a US judge approved a class-action settlement between the NFL and former American Football players who had suffered concussion.
The agreement provides up to US$5 million compensation for each retired player suffering from the effects of repeated head trauma. It applies to all players who retired on or before 7th July 2014 and to family members of players who died before that date.
More than 200 ex-players refused to take part in the class-action lawsuit, arguing that the NFL was hiding the true dangers of concussion. Those players are entitled to bring separate claims against the NFL.
Concussion in the NFL
Concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a blow to the head. It’s an issue that has surrounded the NFL for a number of years and, last year, there were 692 diagnosed concussions in the NFL.
An increasing number of former NFL players who have suffered concussions have gone on to develop issues such as Alzheimer’s, depression and chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) which is a progressively degenerative brain disease caused by repeated head trauma.
Concussion is such a growing issue in American Football that is had become the subject of an upcoming Hollywood movie starring Will Smith.
Concussion in UK Sport
The dangers of concussion in UK sport have been under the radar recently, particularly with regard to rugby.
Jonathan Thomas, a rugby union forward for Worcester Warriors and the Welsh national team, announced his retirement from the sport this week. He was diagnosed with epilepsy and forced to retire from rugby on medical advice. It is thought that his epilepsy is a result of sustaining multiple head traumas during his rugby career.
Earlier this year, Wales winger George North sustained two separate blows to the head in a Six Nations game against England and the Welsh medical staff came under fire for allowing him to play on after his first head trauma.
With the Rugby World Cup having just begun, all teams have been warned to take head injuries seriously – to recognise the symptoms of concussion and to remove a player immediately if a concussion is suspected. To help spot concussion early, TV replays will be used, including the use of revolutionary technology that records the game in real time and makes the footage immediately available to coaching staff.
Whilst we hope that the Rugby World Cup will address the growing problem of concussion by putting player safety first, we must also remember the same risks are faced by many players in amateur sport. A two-minute concussion test was recently confirmed as being effective in spotting concussion quickly in young sportspeople. The use of this test at all levels of sport carrying a risk of head trauma would demonstrate a serious approach to the risk of concussion – something which I hope sports organisations at all levels would adopt.
A BBC Panorama programme investigating the link between rugby and brain injuries can be watched here.
Ken Brough is a senior personal injury solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in London.
Slater and Gordon Lawyers offer a free consultation for anyone wishing to make a brain injury compensation claim. Call us 24/7 on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we’ll be happy to help you.