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What impact will the studies into concussion have on the risk of litigation from rugby players?

Shane Williams scores try
Friday, 19 September 2014 By David Reade QC

The Scottish Rugby Football Union has recently encouraged former Scotland rugby players1 to come forward to assist in the University of Glasgow’s study into the effects of concussion in the sport.2

The purpose of the study is to ascertain whether there is evidence that rugby related head injuries have long-term health effects.

The Scottish Rugby Union study has received support from the International Rugby Board3 and former Scottish Rugby captains; Gordon Bulloch and Chris Paterson have taken part in the study.4 The Head Injury Research Group of the University is conducting the research.

Dr. Willie Stewart, the Glasgow Consultant neuropathologist, gave evidence at the inquest in Dublin into the death of former Lansdowne prop forward Kenny Nuzum. In June of this year, the Coroner found that Mr. Nuzum’s death had been caused by chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease caused by repeated head trauma.5

The topic of the effect of concussive head injuries in sport has been a prominent one in the last few years. In August 2013, a tentative $765 million settlement was reached in a class action brought by some 4,500 former NFL players alleging that the league had concealed the dangers of concussion whilst rushing injured players back onto the field.6 The first lawsuit in that litigation commenced in August 2011. There are now legal challenges to the proposed settlement and the first challenge was due to be heard on 10 September 2014.7 There are wider issues in the NFL litigation than the concussion claims themselves; it embraces allegations of professional negligence against the NFL and claims against the helmet manufacture Riddel for allegedly withholding evidence and denying the risk of head injuries to the players.

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Written by

David Reade Q.C

David Reade QC

David Reade Q.C is a commercial litigator at Littleton Chambers with a wide base of experience of sports based disputes, particularly in the field of managerial and player disputes. He recently successfully appeared for Crystal Palace FC in the Court of Appeal. 

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